Now in Paperback!
The years bled together. Each waking morning—or afternoon, truth be told, or evening—couched in a familiar bloom of panic. After that, after Vale realized where he was, who he was, came the rest: sickness, fear, assessment of damage, all of it stitched together with the fine red thread of guilt.
Art & Artists had once called him a “relentless avatar of our contemporary, post-nuclear unease.”
He woke to the alarm, studded in fresh bruises. New scabs on his knees and his teeth loose in his mouth. His lack of memory familiar in itself. Sunlight fell in the room in fierce, distinct bands.
He stood shivering in the shower, the water lancing against him while lava, hot and malicious, compressed itself behind his optic nerves. This pulsing thunder in the skull, and moments from the Ace High the night before came to him slowly, like something spied through a fun house mirror. He bent over to pick up a sliver of soap and with his trembling hand batted a rust-dotted razor lying on the rim of the bathtub. The razor slid down the tub, luge-like, and Vale reached down for it, trying not to gag as dark spots burst like stars in his periphery. He stumbled and stepped on the razor. The crack of plastic, and thin threads of blood began to snake toward the drain. It was painless.
“Oh, come on,” he croaked. “Shit’s sake.” He’d smoked nearly two packs of Camels the night before and sounded now like something pulled howling from a crypt. He tried to stand on his other foot to examine the cut and couldn’t manage it. He put his foot back down and stepped on the broken razor again, and now the floor of the tub was awash in an idiot’s Rorschach of red on white. He retched once and shut the water off, resigned to death—or at least collapse—at any second. The towel hanging from the back of the door reeked of mold, and he gagged against it and dropped it to the floor. He left bloody, shambling one-sided footprints to his bedroom.
Apart from the painting hanging above his bed (the sole Mike Vale original still in his possession), the fist-sized hole next to the light switch was the room’s only decoration. There was a dresser pitted with cigarette burns and topped with a constellation of empty beer bottles. An unmade bed ringed with dirty sheets. The alarm clock on the floor. Plastic blinds rattled against the open window.
He dressed slowly and stepped to the kitchen. Flies dive-bombed bottles mounded in the sink, on the counters. The light on the answering machine was blinking. He pressed the Play button, already knowing who it would be—who else called him?—and there was Candice’s voice.
“The only man in the country still using an answering machine,” she said. “Okay. This is me saying hi. Give me a ring when you discover, you know, fire and the wheel.” Her voice then became steeped in a cautious, thoughtful cadence, a measured quality he remembered more clearly from their marriage. “Richard and I should be heading up through there on tour for another Janey book soon. It’d be good to touch base, get dinner. Call me.”
It was September, the last gasp of summer. The apartment was explosive with trapped heat. A swath of sunlight fell across the countertop. Just looking at that glare hurt his eyes, his entire body, made him feel as if rancid dishwater was shooting straight into his guts. A nameless sadness, the sadness, the exact opposite of the Moment and so much more insistent, tore through him like a torrent. Like a rip of lightning, there and gone, and Vale sobbed. Just once. One ragged, graceless gasp. Pathetic. He stood sweating over the answering machine, ashamed of himself.
He was out the door five minutes later, blood wetting his sock, cold coffee and aspirin hammering a bitter waltz somewhere below his heart.
Time had once called him “a shaman of America’s apocalyptic incantations, one who catalogs our fears and thrusts them back at us in a ferocious Day-Glo palette.”
On his way to the bus stop Mike Vale, the shaman, the avatar—looking down in his shirt pocket for a cigarette—ran directly into a telephone pole, hard enough to give himself a nosebleed.
Title: The Sword of Souls (The Last Valkyrie, #2)
Author: Karina Espinosa
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Orina Kafe
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
Blurb: Raven Romero lost the Sword of Souls to Fen and his sister, giving up the search for the only weapon that could kill Odin.
Instead, she teamed up with human detective William Callahan to find the drug lord responsible for Venomâa narcotic leaving dead humans and supernaturals in its wake. But priorities change when a greater evil threatens Midgard and the only way to defeat it is with the sword.
Being the humansâ champion isnât easy, especially during withdrawal while trying to stay sober. And Raven is struggling with both.
Enemies become friends and new enemies emerge as the hunt begins for The Sword of Souls.
The Last Valkyrie: https://amzn.to/2NUYwW0
Karina Espinosa is the Urban Fantasy author of the Sins of the Fallen series and the Mackenzie Grey novels. Infatuated with travel, pop culture, and the need to write everything down, she spends much of her days in front of a computer working on her next book, shopping online, and listening to music. With nomadic tendencies, she is currently resting her head in South Florida until the itch to move strikes again. You can usually catch her on Facebook, Instagram and live-tweeting during episodes of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Orphan Black. Follow her on social media!
The Last Valkyrie: https://amzn.to/2NUYwW0
The Last Wingman
Now on Kindle Unlimited!
An old-fashioned brass bell jingles when I open the door to June’s store. The narrow space is made even tighter by the floor-to-ceiling cubbies that line the two long walls. In the back of the store, a picture window frames a view of Saratoga Passage like a painting.
Tucked in the corner near the window is a comfy-looking wingback chair, and next to it, an oversized basket filled with balls of yarn. The shop is cozy and feminine, comfortable like a sweet grandmother’s house.
A grandmother who listens to “Sex and Candy” on low volume.
Not what I was expecting.
“Hello?” I call from my spot near the door. There’s no sign of June or anyone else inside. Double-checking the door for a Be back soon note and not seeing one, I step farther into the space. “Hello?”
A soft thump followed by more thumps comes from the desk area. Metallic pings and something heavy hitting the floor precedes a feminine voice yelping “Ouch” and “Fuck!”
June doesn’t seem like the type to drop f-bombs. Maybe she’s hired a ’90s-music-loving teenager with a foul mouth.
“Everything okay?” I follow the noise to the partially open door near the register.
“Fine. Fine! Nothing to see here! I’ll be with you in a second. Thanks for your patience.” What sounds like rapid-fire beanbags hitting a cornhole board contradicts her words.
As I see it, I have two options. I can ignore whatever is going on inside the closet and wait, or I can ignore her lie and step in to help.
I go with the second choice.
Swinging the door open, I’m greeted with a scene of colorful chaos. A box balances on its side on the edge of a high shelf, most of its contents now on the floor around June’s feet. She’s keeping the box aloft with both hands, but doesn’t have the height to shove it back into position.
“Here, let me help you.” I step into the small space behind her and reach above her head to stabilize the cardboard container before she ends up concussed.
“I don’t need your help.” Reluctantly, she releases her grip.
“Okay.” Disappointed and a little hurt by her obvious annoyance at my presence, I give the corner a final shove to guarantee we’re out of danger. “You’re welcome.”
“I said I was fine.” Continuing to face the shelves, she doesn’t turn her head to speak to me. In fact, she sounds downright angry.
“Got it. Well, I’ll get out of your way.” Resigned, I decide to abandon my mission and retreat to the safety of my own business, both literally and figuratively.
What happens next is more her fault than mine. Had she used a step stool and not tipped the box over, there wouldn’t be balls of yarn strewn across the floor, creating a minefield. Easily-tripped-over round objects that cause me to lose my balance and reach for the closest available thing to stop myself from landing on my ass.
Unfortunately, I grab June by the waist, surprising her. She’s not prepared to act as my anchor. Unstable, we both stumble backward.
Lucky for June, I break her fall. Unlucky for me, she lands on top of me.
We’ve never even hugged before this moment. I think we might have shaken hands once when Dan introduced us, but the memory isn’t clear. There wasn’t an electric shock when we first touched or met eyes, no love-at-first-sight zings upon initial contact—unlike now when my body is on high alert that we’re not only touching but lying flush against each other.
“I’m so sorry!” June wiggles, her movement drawing my attention to her clothes. How did I not notice she’s wearing a full skirt made of thin material? My imagination easily erases its existence altogether.
“Don’t apologize. This was completely my fault.” My words come out a grunt as I try to catch my breath.
My hands still grip her waist, making this position more awkward by the second. Unbidden, my fingers flex against her softness. Bad idea. Feeling my dick thicken, I tell myself not to move, not to even breathe. Oxygen is overrated.
Shifting on top of me, she bends her knees and gets her feet under her enough to stand up in a single, ninja-quick movement. Instead of waiting for me to stand or extending a hand to help me, she exits through the door and closes it behind her.
I’m left sprawled out on the floor, balls of yarn and possibly a needle poking me in the back. “No good deed goes unpunished,” I mutter to myself as I scramble to my feet. “Don’t worry, I’m fine.”
Taken by Lies
Date Published: March 2019
Itâs okay to be different.
Ha. Thatâs what people are supposed to say, supposed to pretend in this new age, hipster reality that I live in. Except for high school students arenât accepting and having my life up for debate in the halls, well . . . it reallyâreallyâsucks.
Then a single conversation with my dad shatters all of my childhood memories and my mom copes with his news by spending every hour losing herself in work. Suddenly, itâs not just my high schoolâs hallways that have become a freaking horror film. Just traversing the relationship between my parents is more dangerous than crossing a minefield.
So Iâve been keeping my head down, hoping to just survive my senior year. That is, until Jason Monroe waltzes into my life and invites me to Homecoming. The soccer god is popular, hot as hell, and my every teenaged fantasy come to life.
And for some insane reason, he likes me. Me. The Harry-Potter-loving, pajama-wearing, bookworm nerd who is too lazy to spend much time on makeup and hair. Somehow Jason Monroe likes me.
But my life falling apart means that Iâm a terrible bet and Jason couldnât possibly want to run the gauntlet of high school or my home life with me.
Except . . . what if he does?
My eyes slid closed. How did he always know?
I turned, the same distant, friendly smile Iâd perfected curving my lips.
His perfectly polite one greeted me in response.
And we stood there like two idiots, fake smiles on our faces and not knowing how to move forward.
Finally, I pointed to my shoes and said, âI donât think my feet can take it.â
Real amusement crept into his expression. âThat bad?â
I made a face. âWorse.â
âHere.â Before I could figure out what he was doing, Jason had knelt in front of me and slipped off my black four-inch pumps.
I would have protested, except it felt so good.
He set the heels aside and pulled me into his arms, instantly finding the songâs gentle beat. I relaxed against his chest, content to let him guide me to the music. There was no struggle, just wholehearted surrender.
Jason was second nature and my body, my mind, my heart recognized that.
About the Author
Aside from writing romance, Elise's passions are chocolate, Star Wars, and hockey (the order depending on the day and how well her team -- the Sharks! -- are playing). She and her husband also play as much hockey as they can squeeze into their schedules, so much so that their typical date night is spent on the ice. Elise is the mom to two exuberant boys and is thoroughly addicted to Dancing With the Stars.
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