I already gave you a tasty treat of a teaser from my contribution to Dirty Deeds 2, but to start your weekend with some fun… the starters to the other stories in the set. (Spoiler alert: they’re all good and fun!!)
From Putting the Chic in Psychic by Diana Pharaoh Francis:
I couldn’t deny I was having a damned good start to the day. My fake mother—aka Aunty Mommy—remained dead and had thus far been unable to rise from the grave and haunt me; my savagely vandalized business was under reconstruction; nobody had tried to kill me recently; my dog loved me unconditionally, as did my three best friends; and I was enjoying the nectar of the gods—aka an extra large 9-1-1 espresso—with a gorgeous man.
Yeah, maybe I had a few problems, but at the moment, I could ignore all of them and enjoy the lovely weather and the very fine specimen of masculinity sitting across from me.
I sipped my ultra-caffeinated brew, eyeing Damon over the rim of my cup. He was flat out hot. Like HAWT. I’d seen him mostly naked and could attest to six pack abs, broad shoulders, and thighs that could crack walnuts. And his ass. It could make a nun wet her panties. With that body, his dark blond hair, stormy blue eyes, and chiseled jaw, he could have been a model. The fact that he was eyeing me with the same orgasmic appreciation I’d just given the first sip of my coffee made me want to lick him like a lollipop.
Just at the moment, my life was closer to perfect than it had ever been, which of course meant that everything would shortly be going straight to hell. Murphy’s Law and Mercury in Retrograde are the ruling forces of my life. Trouble was always lying in wait just around the corner. At least it meant life was exciting. Often hideously painful, but still exciting. It also meant I knew enough to enjoy the good while it lasted.
I am an almost twenty-eight year old business woman and witch. I run Effortless Estates, a high-end estate liquidation business. I hold wealthy estate sales and have a showroom of the more valuable pieces. Or I did, before a former colleague destroyed it out of frustration, all because I refused to die when he was trying to murder me. Luckily he did succeed in offing Aunty Mommy, which made me almost willing to forgive him for my attempted murder, except he’d also tried to kill my three BFFs—Stacey, Jen, and Lorraine—not to mention Damon and my recently discovered uncle.
Nobody fucks with the people I love and gets away with it. Nobody.
From Magic School for Geezers by Faith Hunter:
Dani was perched in one of the visitors’ chairs in the office as the COO perused her computer screen. Margorie Devoe, the Chief Operating Officer of “The Seven’s,” was behind her desk, making her wait. Hoping to make her squirm. Make her worry.
Power games pissed Dani off; always had. But she knew how this game was played. She relaxed into the stiff-backed chair and sipped the coffee. It was still hot, so she hadn’t been here as long as it felt like. She lifted a hand and stroked her pearls, an affectation that went along with her undercover ID and fake personal and professional history.
She had spent the early morning in the lab, while the techs, the psychologist, and the counselor tested her magical abilities, and then the later morning filling out paperwork: medical records, financial records, personal and professional history. Part of the paperwork was true, the rest was total fiction and was currently being run through “The Seven’s” IT department for verification. If her cover didn’t hold, if someone picked holes in her false identification, she’d be tossed out on her butt, and their client would have no way to find their missing family member.
The laboratory testing had taken place in a void room and Dani had failed. Utterly. On purpose. Instead of igniting the candle, or heating the cup of water with her power, she had blown up a computer and the desk it had been sitting on, and then set a wooden doorway on fire, the blaze so hot she had set off the fire alarm and the fire department had shown up, lights, sirens, and hunky first responders, most young enough to be her grandsons.
Blowing things up and setting things on fire had been fun, and not something she’d done on purpose in years.
From Liz and Eli Sitting by Faith Hunter:
Eli didn’t talk a lot, no chitchat, no chain of consciousness patter, no gushy mushy stuff, so she seldom knew where she stood with him. Not that she needed that kind of emotional validation. Not her. Never. Or, she never had before she met Eli. It had never mattered what a man thought or felt about her until now. Maybe because she had never really been in love with a guy, not with that desperate, weak-in-the-knees, want to spend her life with him kind of love.
He’d be gone for weeks, a trip that also involved his political and security work for some kind of coronation involving Jane Yellowrock, the Dark Queen of the Mithrans, the Master of the City of New Orleans, the master of Clan Yellowrock, and more titles, on and on. Jane was a very important person in the world of paranormals, especially vampires, and she had done a lot of good for Liz’s kind too, bringing peace and providing protection for witches that they hadn’t enjoyed in hundreds of years. Jane was also Eli’s adopted sister and, so far as Liz could tell, his best friend.
Liz was just… his girlfriend? Lover? Friend with benefits?
Her mind circled back to the importance of that wedding Eli hadn’t invited her to. She knew that he would be working throughout the planning stages and during the wedding. She hoped the reason she hadn’t been invited was because he’d be working, and not because she and Jane had an uneasy relationship.
Uneasy. Hah. Jane had killed her sister. The fact that Evangelina had summoned a demon and tried to kill her own sisters, and therefore had been targeted with a “take-down” order didn’t help a lot. Evie was dead. Jane was still alive.
Those upcoming weeks when Eli would be gone were looming empty, like a black hole of boredom and loneliness. Calling him for something that might be nothing was just an excuse to talk to him, maybe see him.
Liz looked down at the tracks that had her hesitating.
She shouldn’t need an excuse.
She shouldn’t need to see him either. This was a weakness she hadn’t dealt with before. Ever.
From Oak and Ink by Devon Monk:
Fate was coming. The roar of her motorcycle rumbled at the edge of my hearing and rattled through the magic in the ground beneath me, shaking that damn pecan tree I was scowling at.
I set my hammer and bucket of nails on the sawhorse and wiped my arm over my forehead, mopping sweat even though it was barely dawn.
“You hear that?” I asked the ghost. Valentine was lounging on the pile of wood I wanted to turn into a shop, even though the damn tree was in the way of the roofline.
“Did I hear some woman cussing about not having any help, and for reasons unknown to me, angry at a pecan tree? No, Ricky. I haven’t heard a thing you’ve said.”
Val had been a werewolf in life and was a smart-ass in death.
Built lean and rangy with a bit of hungry-wolf to him, he was too skinny to be my type. But with his scruff and wicked dark eyes, he pulled off the good-looking bad-boy vibe.
Me? I was a mountain. Over six-feet tall, with broad shoulders, wide hips, and thick everywhere else, I knew my size could intimidate. Counted on it, really.
Val claimed he had a tattoo on his body somewhere, which I wasn’t about to ask him to show me. I, however, couldn’t hide my ink and was absolutely painted from collarbone to fingertips, back, butt, legs and feet.
Every one of my tattoos carried magic that allowed me to access and look after the magic in the Crossroads.
“The engines,” I said. “Can you hear them?”
He tipped his head. The ghost wolf, who was always with him, lifted its head, too, ears pricked up.
“No?” he said.
“Well, I can. It’s Fate.”
“The god? How concerned should I be?”
“Depends. Did you do something to piss off the gods?”
“Not lately.” He grinned. “Have you, Ricky?”
From Oak and Ink:
The Crossroads wasn’t exactly a sentient building, but all the magic stored in it had somehow merged together to create a joined spirit.
The old house was my friend, and I was its guardian and the keeper of its magic.
Even if that magic was dangerous.
Especially when it was dangerous.
In return, the Crossroads did its best to help me. Lately, I’d been having the same dream on repeat, which I knew the Crossroads had something to do with.
I was floating in tropical water, the taste of sugar on my lips. A handsome man, a familiar man, with green, green eyes placed a flower in my hair, his fingers drawing down the curve of my cheek. “I’ve missed you, Ricks.”
That’s where the dream always ended, because that’s always when I’d recognized the man.
Cardamom Oak. That dryad-wizard fink.
I’d dismissed the dream every day for a week, but the Crossroads just kept putting it in my brain.
I knew it was an omen.
Trouble was coming.
And that trouble was somehow connected to my jerk ex-lover.
From Heart Stings by Jennifer Estep:
“We’re getting married—again!”
Mallory Parker, my grandmother, made that pronouncement in a loud, proud voice and followed it up with a wide, beaming smile. Me? I held back a groan and downed some water from my crystal goblet to hide the grimace twisting my face.
Stuart Mosley, Mallory’s husband, must have noticed my lack of enthusiasm, because he leaned forward and looked at me. “Don’t worry, Lorelei. We’re not actually getting married again. We’ve already been through that whole shebang once, which was plenty for me.”
Mallory’s blue eyes narrowed, and every single part of her body bristled, including the wrinkles that lined her face. She sat up to her full height and somehow managed to peer down her nose at Mosley, despite the fact that they were both dwarves and only around five feet tall. “I wasn’t aware that one of the happiest days of my life was a shebang.”
Mosley reached over and squeezed her hand, his hazel eyes gleaming in his tan, wrinkled face. “You know what I mean. All the fuss around planning the wedding. Picking out suits and dresses and flowers and ten different desserts for the reception. Now, that was most definitely a shebang. And for the record, it was one of the happiest days of my life too. And every day since then has only made me happier.”
A pleased, pink blush swept across Mallory’s pale cheeks. She curled her hand into his, and the massive diamond ring on her finger sparkled like a star. The two elderly dwarves stared into each other’s eyes, completely focused on the love they saw reflected in each other’s soft, adoring gaze.
They were a striking, distinguished couple. With her teased, cloudlike coif of snow-white hair, powder-blue cocktail dress, and perfect posture, Mallory looked as regal as a queen. Mosley’s wavy silver hair was expertly cut and styled, and his navy suit was impeccable, although his hooked, slightly crooked nose made him look more like a retired boxer than the president of First Trust bank and one of the most powerful businessmen in Ashland.
I cleared my throat, interrupting their lovey-dovey staring contest. “So, if you’re not going through the whole shebang again, then what are you doing?”
Mallory pulled her gaze away from Mosley and focused on me again. “We’re simply hosting a second reception, because…” Her voice trailed off. “Well, you know what happened at our first wedding reception.”
Everyone in Ashland knew what had happened at Mallory and Mosley’s reception, which had been the grand finale to their Valentine’s Day wedding last month. For the most part, things had gone off without a hitch. The actual wedding ceremony had been a beautiful affair, held in a ballroom at the Five Oaks Country Club and attended by friends and family from both near and far. The following reception had featured scrumptious food, lovely decorations, and upbeat music, and everyone had been talking, laughing, dancing, and having a terrific time.
Until Emery Slater had crashed the party.
The female giant had stormed into the ballroom and taken everyone hostage. Emery and her fellow giants had threatened to start shooting people unless Gin Blanco, the assassin known as the Spider, had agreed to leave with them. And in true Gin-being-Gin fashion, she had sacrificed herself and gone with the giants to protect the innocent guests, who had included her own friends and family.
“I told you that asking Gin to be a bridesmaid was risky,” I said. “Especially since she was hot on the trail of Mason Mitchell at the time.”
When the going gets tough, the tough get their hands dirty.
Join NY Times bestselling authors Faith Hunter and Jennifer Estep along with USA Today bestselling authors R.J. Blain, Diana Pharaoh Francis, and Devon Monk on a brand-new romp through magical worlds where the damsels bring the distress, what can go wrong will go wrong, and nothing is as it seems.
Adventure with Eli Younger, Liz Everhart, and Brute in the thrilling world of Jane Yellowrock. Face off against old gods and lost souls at a magical crossroads on Route 66. Become entangled in Ashland’s dark, deadly web with side characters from the Elemental Assassin series. Return to the irreverent world of Beck Wyatt, where disaster waits around every corner and cheesecake makes it all worthwhile. And finally, meet up with the Quinns and friends in the zany world of the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series.
In this collection of all-new urban fantasy and paranormal stories, the gloves are off and simply surviving might just be the dirtiest, most difficult deed of all.
Happy Reading, everyone!
P.S.: Hoofin’ It is still on sale for another day or two ish… ish. (E-book only.)