Booming Snippet #2 for A Gilded Cage!

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A Gilded Cage Snippet #2 is here!!!

 

Have you been wondering what was going to happen? Hehehehe, well here you go! And man, I can't wait for this book to launch this Sunday! A Gilded Cage is the first book in a new series by Auburn Tempest and Michael Anderle! Woot Woot!!!

 

What? And I’m hearing about it now!” My father’s voice booms up the heating vent on my bedroom floor, and I track the sounds of his approach through the creaks of our old Victorian house. Depending on how mad he is, and how many stairs he skips, Da can make it from the kitchen to my room in anywhere from twenty-five to seventeen thundering footsteps.

It’s a seventeen morning. Oh goody.

“Fiona Kacee Cumhaill!”

I stiffen in my bed and pull my covers over my head. It doesn’t matter that I’m twenty-three and an independent woman. When he yells my full name, I’m back to being an eight-year-old girl caught red-handed, shearing Dillan’s hair while he slept.

Well, he deserved it. He did the same thing to Walks With No Legs, my fancy-haired Guinea pig.

My door flies open and Da busts in, followed by Aiden, Calum, and Emmet. Aiden takes one look at the gauze wraps on my hands and curses. Da’s expression darkens.

Calum and Emmet look whipped and contrite. I imagine they got a fair dose of our father’s fury for not waking him up last night when we finally finished giving our statements and arrived home.

Before I get a word out, he erupts. “Are ye off yer gob? Ye stubborn, foolish wee girl. Ye coulda been killed.”

When my father gets like this, it’s best to let him have his say before trying any form of reason. It’s a Borg “resistance is futile” thing. I sit up, nod when appropriate, and prop my pillows to await my turn to speak.

“—and then to learn that the boys found ye unconscious. What if that sonofabitch got ye into a car and made away with ye, or had a weapon? Have ye any idea…”

Now that I’m awake, I have to pee. I slide off my bed, shuffle into the ensuite that joins my room with Dillan’s and Emmet’s and close the door all but an inch.

Da doesn’t miss a beat. Dressing-downs like this are a common enough occurrence that he knows I can still hear him. The onslaught continues while I empty my bladder, unwrap my palms, wash up, and rejoin them.

“—enough to worry about with yer brothers in danger every goddamn day, do ye think I need more on my mind? After yer mother…”

I sit on the edge of my bed and examine my scraped hands in my lap, biting my tongue.

He’s winding down. My time is coming.

Auntie Shannon says I inherited the “can’t be told” gene from my mother. I don’t know if that’s true, but if Ma was considered more stubborn than Da…well, that’s saying something. I do remember she could give it as good as she got.

Yeah, maybe I am like her in that way.

“Da,” I say when he’s had the floor long enough.

“—brothers and I would do if he’d killed ye. Yer the feckin’ glue that holds us together, Fi.”

“And a person in my own right.” I break his rhythm. “You forget that sometimes. Yes, I’m the keeper of the house, and it takes most of my time to sort you and the boys out, but I’m more than that. I’m tough and smart and as much a Cumhaill as any of you.”

I point at Aiden, Emmet, and Calum, leaning against my dresser and door to ride out the storm. “You trust that they can take care of themselves in a scuffle, but I can too. I’ve got a stone fist and a fighting spirit the same as them. My instincts are sharp and my reflexes quick. And I’m smart.”

“That’s just it,” Da snaps and scrubs a hand over his morning stubble. His hair is sticking up all cockeyed and at odd angles like a crazy russet rooster. “Yer too smart fer yer own good. Ye can take care of yerself, but yer too sure of it. Ye have no fear, and that’s not good. Ye’ve never respected danger, Fi. It’s like yer temptin’ the Fates to test ye.”

“I am not.” I’m pissed at how blind he is. “I assessed the danger to Kady. There was no time to get help, and the man was unarmed.”

“Ye assume the man was unarmed,” he snaps. “He held Kady as a shield between ye. He coulda had a gun at his back or a knife in his pocket, but ye were so damn sure ye could handle things yerself, ye rushed him like a novice fool.”

I jut my chin as his disapproval hits. “And if it had been Calum or Emmet in that alley instead of me, you’d be whistling a different tune. You’d be patting them on the back saying, ‘Good on ye, boyo. Ye got the girl safe home. We’ll catch the man responsible in the days to come.’ But because it was me, I’m an eejit to think I could do the same.”

Da’s finger comes up in the air between us, and his cheeks flush red. “Don’t throw yer feminist shite at me, Fiona Kacee. I work with women in uniform every day and trust them in any situation. They’re trained and competent and know what they’re up against.”

“But I don’t? Da, I grew up in this house. I’ve seen the horrors you face and heard the stories the boys tell of their shifts each day. Hell, I learned enough working behind the bar at Shenanigans to write fifty true crime novels.”

“Hearin’ and knowin’ are different, mo chroi.” He loses steam by calling me his heart. “Ye take care of yerself better than most, I’ll not argue that. Because of it, Kady is safe home. I’m proud as blazes of ye for lendin’ her aid, but no matter how sexist or unjust it is, yer a wee thing in a world of monsters—a Chihuahua ready to take on Rottweilers. If ye don’t learn to respect the danger, it’ll get ye. Like it or not, that’s the truth of it. There is always someone bigger and better prepared for the fight.”

“So what?” I launch to my feet and throw up my hands. “I should don my apron and resign myself to cooking and ironing for you lot the rest of my life? If Ma hadn’t died, I would’ve gone to college and struck my own path. Filling this house with a family to take care of was her dream, not mine. I’m capable of doing great things too.”

“Do ye think me daft?” Da drops his pointing finger and scowls. “It’s not fair that ye had to step in and take care of yer brothers and me, but it’s the way of it. Yer mam’s death left shoes to fill and broken hearts to mend. Ye’ve done better at both than any of us had a right to expect. If yer ready to take on the world, I’m all for it. Still, we need ye alive to do it.”

Not often does Da let feelings crack through his crusty shell. I’m not prepared for it. Angry I can handle. Sharp retorts, I’ve mastered. Admissions of his vulnerability after losing our mom has me looking at the door for a quick escape.

Only, there’s no escape.

Aiden is blocking the door with his muscled arms crossed over his chest. Emmet and Dillan are standing beside him looking as lost by the turn of conversation as I feel.

I can’t look at them or I’ll start crying, and I’m not crying because I’m mad. I step back and frown at my father. “I do see the dangers, Da—honest, I do—and I respect them. I can’t let that stop me. If you think honor and doing what’s right is only for the Cumhaill men, you’re cracked. The same blood runs in my veins as yours. The same teachings were drummed into me. I care about people as much as any of you.”

“More.” Emmet pushes off the dresser to straighten. “That’s what scares us, Fi. You care about people more than any of us, and don’t hesitate to stand as the shield between an innocent girl and her attacker.”

“We don’t want to see you hurt, baby girl.” Aiden comes over to squeeze my hand. “If you feel like life’s leaving you behind, carve out something for yourself. We’ll all pitch in to make it work for you. Just be safe about it.”

Calum pegs me with a look so haunted my chest tightens. “When Kady screamed for help, and we saw you lying on the ground by that tree so still…” He shakes his head. “Jaysus, Fi. You can’t put us through that shit again.”

Da nods. “After every shift, I come home knowing as soon as I see your beautiful face, the darkness of my day will dissolve. You’re our touch-stone, Fi.”

Emmet joins the love-in and kisses the side of my head. “Even though you’re a total pain in the ass.”

Calum nods. “Absolutely the worst.”

***

It’s close to one that afternoon when I hear the throaty rumble of my muffler grumbling along the back lane and pulling into my spot. It’s tough to find parking in the city, so by the time Aiden, Brendan, and Calum needed to get around, Da moved the back fence forward and paved a section of the lawn so they had space behind the house.

We’re luckier than most. Being the last house on the street before the ravine, we also have a little dirt lane that runs up the side of the house. It’s not for parking, but we often use it for short-term stops when friends drop by.

I finish with Emmet’s uniforms and hang them on the hooks at the bottom of the stairs. Our house, a quaint Victorian built in Cabbagetown in the 1840s, isn’t fancy but has character. It’s an old, brick semi-detached with four bedrooms upstairs and a basement finished with a pool table and enough workout equipment to open Cumhaill’s Gym if policing doesn’t work out in the end.

Who needs more than that?

“Fiona?” Liam lets himself in and is jogging up the back hall looking panicked when I step out to meet him.

“I’m fine—” I’m caught up in his arms as he gives me a quick hug, then eases back to take inventory. He touches the bruise on the side of my face and scowls at the road-rash on my palms. I regain possession of my hands and step back. “Seriously, I’m fine. Your mom told you I take it?”

He nods and pulls me into the kitchen. “I’m sorry, Fi. If I hadn’t skipped out—”

I wave that away. “It’s nobody’s fault except the weirdo in the alley. Even if you were there, I would’ve still taken out the trash. S’all good.”

He sits me down at the table and busies himself at the counter. He’s as comfortable in our home as we all are in his. “I’m making hot toddies. Talk to me and keep talking until I believe you’re all right. Tell me what happened.”

I give him the full recap. Explaining everything for the eleventeenth time increases my sense that I’m missing something—something big.

“And you saw him inside earlier?”

“Yeah, a Tyson Beckford-type drinking Redbreast in booth nine.”

“Who’s Tyson Beckford?”

“Beautiful, black supermodel for Polo, piercing eyes, easy smile…ring any bells?”

He makes a face at me. “Sorry. I’m not up on male models, but I do remember a slick-looking black guy set up in nine. Pissed me off that we were busy and he sat alone and taking up a booth for six.”

“Yeah, that’s him. Hey, did anyone check on Kady?”

He grabs two glass mugs and the honey out of the cupboard. “Mom called this morning and told her to take the night off. She refused, of course. Dillan said he’d stay with her for the day and escort her in for the dinner shift.”

I picture how protective of Kady my brother got after hell broke loose. “While the two of us gave our statements inside after I came to, it was like a switch flipped for him. Kady was shaking and about to crumble into a heap of tears, and he finally saw her—like, saw her.”

Liam measures the shots of whiskey and mixes our drinks with a stick of cinnamon. “Mom said he volunteered to take her home and stay with her.”

I accept the drink and inhale the honey-lemon glory of it. “Yeah. D’s good like that. The patience of a saint, that one. He’ll play the part of her loyal watchdog for as long as she needs to lean on him. Then, it’ll be more, guaranteed.”

Liam settles across the table and smiles. “Thank fuck. That love match was a long time in coming. Every time Dillan came in the bar, Kady became half as productive. It had to happen sooner or later.”

“You’re not kidding. Hey, speaking of love matches, how was your night?”

Liam fills me in on the PG broad strokes of his evening, but the tension of his worry never eases. After our second round of restorative whiskey drinks, I can’t take it.

“Stop worrying. I am fine.”

He arches a brow. “That might work on your family, Fi, but I know better. Tell me what you’re not saying. You know I’ll keep your secret.”

I do. Liam’s good that way. I stare into those ice-blue eyes and my guts twist. “It’s going to sound crazy.”

He shrugs and leans back in his chair. “With our families, what’s not crazy?”

True. “Okay, so, last night, I thought it was simple. A crazy guy assaulted a pretty girl, and I got in the way.”

“But you don’t think so anymore?”

“I’ve been running it over in my head. I’m going into the station this afternoon to go over my statement and sign it. I was trying to remember every detail because more comes to you once you settle down and your mind unlocks.”

“And you remember something new?”

“A couple of things.”

“Like?”

“He never hit me or raised a hand to me. I punched him and sacked him and kneed him in the face and he never once returned the favor.”

“Maybe he was busy trying to subdue you.”

“Why not hit me? He had a foot on me and was strong. He pinned me against the tree out back for like, five seconds, then walked away. Why?”

Liam’s getting angry again. I watch the mottled flesh of his cheeks darken. “What else did you remember?”

“Not remember. Found.”

“Found? What do you mean?”

I get up from my chair, give him my back, and pull my shirt off. Clutching the fabric to my front, I swing my hair away from my shoulder blades.

“What the fuck is that?”

“My question exactly.”

The legs of his chair scrape on the floor as he gets to his feet. He’s taller than me—most people are—so when he takes a good look at the Celtic knotwork tattoo that spontaneously appeared on my back, he has to bend to do it.

“Does it hurt?”

“No, but I feel it. It tingles like it’s squirming up from beneath my skin. Like it’s alive somehow.”

“That’s not gross at all.”

“Right? This morning when I had my shower, I saw the faint outline of the tree of life. The triquetra came around lunch. What does it look like now?”

Liam brushes a gentle sweep across my skin, and my cells light up inside. It’s the same sensation I got when the handsome weirdo in the alley pressed his palm there.

“The tree is a brilliant, shamrock green, the triquetra a shimmering royal blue, and circling the whole thing are the words, Glaine ar gcroi. Near tar ngeag. Beart de reir ar mbriathar.

“Well, shit.” I flap my shirt in front of me and shuck it back on.

“You know what that means?”

“If you’d spent more time paying attention during Irish classes instead of flirting with the girls, you’d know what it says too.” I free my hair and face him. “It’s three sayings, and it means purity of our hearts, strength of our limbs, and action to match our speech.”

His gaze narrows on me. “That was your toast last night for Emmet. Do you think that has something to do with it?”

“Indirectly. It’s the three-part family motto of Da’s people back home in Ireland. How weird is it that a guy gets the better of me in a dark alley, presses his hand on my back, and leaves when I pass out?”

Liam crosses his arms and frowns. “I, for one of many, am damned thankful that’s when the asshole took his leave.”

“Me too, but how do you explain a family crest magically appearing on my skin hours later?”

“I don’t… I can’t.”

“Yeah, me either.” I’m still standing there thinking about last night when the man’s voice drifts into my head. It was right before I passed out. He leaned close and whispered in my ear, “Ye’ve got fight in ye, kin of mac Cumhaill. I’ll give ye that.”

I blink, and my entire body tingles. “I need to speak to my father right now.”

***

The Fifty-first Division Headquarters, where Da has served since he graduated from the academy almost thirty years ago, is a bustling, gritty old law enforcement center on Parliament a block south of King. It’s a heritage building, with decorative masonry, arched windows, and an interesting roofline that looks more like a turn of the century bank than a police station.

There’s limited parking in a public lot, which is nice, but what I love most about the place is that across the road there’s an original city fire hall complete with shiny brass poles and a Dalmatian named Pongo.

It’s hot—in fact, I’m cooking with a cotton shrug on and annoyed I have to wear one. With the foresight of not wanting to strip my shirt off at da’s station, I wore a strapless tank with an airy knit sweater. Even that’s too much.

“It never gets old, does it?” I lock my car and Liam and I cross in front of the fire station.

For once, I’m more interested in getting inside to the air-conditioning than watching the fireman with no shirts polish their trucks.

Liam follows my gaze and chuckles. “I’ll take your word for it. I’ve never gotten weak in the knees for a pec wink.”

I laugh. “Sucks to be you.”

I wave to Greg working the door and head straight up the staircase on the left. Da knows I’m scheduled to go over my statement, so of course, he’s working in-house for the afternoon.

“Hey, kiddo.” Da’s partner Marcus lifts his gaze over the monitor of his computer and gives me a once-over. “I heard about last night. How are you?”

I glance at the concerned faces of two dozen cops I’ve known my whole life and smile. “Right as rain, guys. Seriously. You know us Cumhaills. You might be able to knock us down, but you’ll never be able to keep us there.”

“Good girl.” Marcus points across the space. “You’re set up in meeting room two.”

I weave my way through the warren of cubicles with Liam on my heels. “Meeting room two is good. The walls are mirrored so I can read his reaction. There’s no way he can front when he sees the tattoo.”

“Do you hear yourself, Fi?” Liam casts me a sideways stink eye. “In what world would Niall Cumhaill be associated with a man who attacks his daughter in an alley?”

I pause with my fingers curved around the handle. “Only one way to find out.”

___________________________

So, are you going to grab your Pre-Order copy now? Read it the moment it goes on your ereader? Yup, me too!

Fi seems like she's going to be a fun and snarky heroine! A little spitfire who won't know when to stop! I love it. 🙂

A Gilded Cage, on pre-order now and goes live this Sunday on Amazon!

 

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Bewitching Wild Wednesday September 23, 2020

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An Exciting Snippet For A Brand New Series!

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A Gilded Cage Snippet #1

 

Are you ready for something totally new and awesome? Then check this out! A Gilded Cage is the beginning of the Chronicles of An Urban Druid!

 

Snippet #1

 

Emmet stalls with his hand on the door. The trepidation in his eyes catches in the glow of the neon pub sign blinking ‘Guinness’ beside his face. “It’s not too late, Fi. We can still make our escape.”

I move in and block his retreat. He might have six inches and fifty pounds on me, but I can take him, and we both know it. “Four hours ago, you swore to be brave in the face of danger. You can handle this.”

“I signed on for bank robbers and automatic weapons. What’s awaiting me in there, not so much.”

A stiff summer breeze whips a loose swath of auburn curls into my face. I trap it and tuck it back in my ponytail. “Sack up, mate.” I lay the accent on thick. “Yer a feckin’ Cumhaill. There’s no need to fear the wind if yer haystacks are tied down.”

He snorts. “You’re getting scary good at the oul man impressions.”

And that’s why I am the chosen one to get Emmet here.

Resistance is futile when I dig in my heels, and my five brothers know it. “Onward, Cumhaill. There’s a hape of people proud of you. For once, suffer through the attention and accept the compliments.”

He doesn’t budge, and he doesn’t laugh.

I’m about to get physical when he holds up a finger to stop the assault. “At least swear you won’t let them embarrass me. I haven’t lived down going viral on my twenty-first birthday, and that was almost three years ago.”

I catch my laughter as it pushes up my throat. He never figured out it was me who posted that drunken delight. “No promises. Da and the others headed over straight after your graduation. They’ll be banjaxed by now.”

The expression on Emmet’s face is priceless. Still, he’s stalling. I reach around him, yank open the stained-glass door, and shove him into Shenanigans.

The blissful aromas of pub fare and beer hit us at the same time the uproar of applause and hollering signals our arrival. With a hand on the hostess stand, I climb onto the bench of the first booth. After steadying my boots, I accept the tumbler of whiskey shoved toward me and straighten.

Finger and thumb together, I press them under my tongue and let out a whistle that could shatter glass. The music cuts off, and the room of loveable rowdies quiets.

I raise my whiskey. “To my brother, Emmet Cumhaill. The last man in the house to hit the city streets.” I smile and call on Da’s family motto to finish my toast. “May yer heart remain pure, yer limbs remain strong, and yer actions always be true to yer word.”

“To Emmet!” Da says, perched slightly cockeyed at the end of the bar talking with Auntie Shannon. He raises his pint glass and offers the room a glassy-eyed smile. “Slainte mhath!

Slainte mhath!” I shout amongst the chorus.

Emmet gets a drink thrust into his hand and is swallowed by a crowd of friends and family and men on the force. As the fifth of Niall Cumhaill’s sons to don a badge and gun to follow him into the city streets, great expectations abound.

And rightly so.

My brothers and da are solid men who live by a code and put their lives on the line every time they leave the house.

As much as I worry—and I do—I admire them.

The music blares back on, and I hop down from the booth to join the celebration. With the Celtic rhythm pulling me into its enthrallment, I sway my hips through the mass of familiar bodies and raise my glass.

Slainte mhath,” I shout.

The toast for good health comes back to me twentyfold.

I empty my tumbler in a greedy gulp, the velvety fruit flavor of Redbreast Whiskey sliding down my throat. It mixes with my cocktails from dinner and warms my belly.

The elastic slides from my ponytail with little more than a tug and I run my fingers through the lengths of my hair, setting it free for the evening.

Twirling on the dance floor, the upbeat rhythm of fiddle and flute feeds my soul as always.

Friends spin me and kiss my cheek as I cut through the dancers and head to the bar. It takes me an age to get there, but no sooner do I set my empty tumbler on the pitted wooden surface than Shannon reaches over and pours me another dram.

That’s the beauty of Shenanigans.

There’s no such thing as an empty glass in an Irish pub.

“What’s the craic, Fiona?” Shannon reaches over to accept Da’s empty pint.

“Not much beyond the obvious,” I say.

“Did you and Emmet have a nice dinner?”

I take a swallow of whiskey. “We did.”

“Sushi isn’t dinner,” Da says. “If ye’d gone somewhere with real food, we’d have joined ye.”

I chuckle. “It’s Emmet’s night, Da. He wanted sushi.”

Arragh,” he says, which is the Irish be-all and end-allqagenerally unhappy.

“You didn’t miss much, Da, I promise. We came straight over. Are Kinu and the kids here?”

Shannon points to a booth on the back wall. My oldest brother Aiden is there with his wife and their two wee ones. As if he senses my attention, Aiden looks over and winks. I blow them a kiss and wave to Kinu and the kids.

He and I look the most alike. The oldest and youngest of six got Da’s russet-red hair and bright blue, Irish eyes. Brendan, Calum, Dillan, and Emmet got Ma’s raven black hair and eyes as green as shamrocks in the sun.

Still, there’s no looking at any one of us and not knowing we come from Clan Cumhaill. Or as most pronounce it, Clan Cool.

“It’s a shame Brendan can’t join the fun.” Shannon slides Da a refill.

My old man raps his knuckles on the wooden bar with a firm knock. “Safe home, Brendan.”

Shannon and I follow suit and knock. “Safe home.”

My second-oldest brother, Brenny, works undercover for Guns and Gangs. It’s been four months since we’ve had him home. Da keeps tabs on him through his captain, so we know he’s all right—and I saw him a couple of months ago while I was out on a run-around in town.

Honestly, his transformation when he’s undercover is so impressive that I almost didn’t recognize him.

But I did, so I crossed the street and headed into a store to let him pass without acknowledging him. Being raised in the culture, I’m as well-trained in police procedure as any of the six officers Cumhaill.

The only difference is, I don’t make the Toronto streets safer. They do.

***

By midnight, the crowd is thin, the music slows, and Aiden and Kinu have long ago taken Meg and Jackson home to tuck them into their beds.

“So, Liam.” I nurse my drink at the bar. “Are we keeping you from something important, cousin? You’ve checked your phone six times in the past hour and have one eye on the door.”

Liam shuts the beer tap he’s pulling and shoots me an ocular “fuck-you, Fi.” It’s a look I’m very familiar with, and I laugh. He checks around and finds his mom at the far end of the bar joking with Emmet, Calum, and Dillan.

He shakes off his panic and rolls his eyes. “One sec, and I’ll top you up.”

I sip from my tumbler while studying the faces of those still celebrating Emmet’s progression from the academy to beat cop. Everyone’s so happy and proud. I am too…truly.

Immersion in law and order is the lifeblood of our family. It’s what we know. It makes perfect sense for Emmet to join the others. I considered it for a time—Da nearly shit a brick—so I discarded the idea.

Even if Da would allow it, which he never would, I don’t think police work and I would be a good fit.

I’m not one for rules and regulations.

Liam sets five Guinness and a fruity abomination with an umbrella onto Kady’s serving tray. When she heads back to her tables, he grabs the neck of the Redbreast bottle and comes over to my end of the bar.

Tall and fit, with brunette hair and ice-blue eyes, Liam’s a handsome guy. It’s not weird for me to think so. He’s my cousin by circumstance, not blood. Our fathers were partners out of the academy, and they rode together for sixteen years. Our families grew up close, and after Mark was gunned down during a traffic stop, my parents stepped in to make sure Liam and Shannon weren’t alone.

After Ma passed a few years ago, they returned the favor.

Liam stops on the other side of the bar, and the wonky energy he gives off raises the hair on the nape of my neck. When I look up and meet his ire, the pub spins in a pleasantly fuzzy tumble and swirl.

He lifts the bottle and leans in. “Shit on a stick, Fi. Quit setting my balls in a sling for shits and giggles. Seriously, you’re a royal pain in my ass. If I didn’t love you so damned much, I’d quit you.”

I wave off the top-up and laugh. “Seriously, what’s up with you?”

“Now that you’re poking at it, my blood pressure.” Liam has a great sense of humor and can take the piss better than most of us.

I lean back and smile. “How is it a great guy like you is still single? Are ye tryin’ te break yer mam’s heart?”

He snorts, grabs a bar towel, and wipes the taps down. “It’s one of the great mysteries. I propose to every woman I meet on the first date, but none of them say yes.”

“Yet.”

“Exactly. What about you? Have any prospects made it through the Cumhaill screening process alive?”

“Not a one. The last one was messy.”

“Not another musician.”

I snort. “No, a part-time yoga instructor.”

He laughs and wipes his hand over his mouth. “And your da found the man wanting, did he? I’m shocked. He’s so accepting when it comes to you and the security of your future.”

“I know, right? Too bad. He had a fabulous…body.”

Liam laughs and nods at one of the regulars holding up two fingers. He pulls a couple of bottles of stout from the cooler, hands them over, and keys the charge into the register. “You’re the great Fiona-freaking-Cumhaill. Raise the bar and find someone worthy.”

“Oh, I did. I’ve decided the love of my life is Chris Hemsworth in character as Thor. If I can’t have him looking pretty in leather and saving the world, I don’t want anyone.”

Liam checks on his mother again, then calls up the time on his phone.

“She must be one helluva booty call.”

Liam waggles his brow. “Of the wildest variety, and if I don’t leave soon, I’ll be pooched to catch a bus uptown. Ma doesn’t approve of me running the roads so late at night. She thinks I need to set my sights on a good Irish girl and make plans for a future.”

I snort and hold up my fist for a knuckle bump. “Preach.”

We’re still chuckling when Da nearly slides off his stool down the bar. I launch to catch him before he embarrasses himself and us.

“Lightning reflexes, Cumhaill,” Liam says.

“It’s a gift.” I’m not exaggerating. All of us have crazy-quick reflexes. It’s a boon for them as cops. I guess, for me, it means I can catch my inebriated father when he slips from his stool. Yay me! “It’s a skill honed from years of dodging my brothers’ fists and tackles.”

“The joys of being a one and only child.”

Ha! Being Shannon’s sole focus since her husband died is exactly his problem at the moment. “Hey, Liam, can you do me a huge favor?” I prop up my father and gesture for my cousin to join me in front of the bar.

“What do you need?”

“I’m a little gone for driving tonight. If I cover the bar with Auntie until close, could you take my car and drop Da at home? I’ll be here anyway. Might as well make myself useful. I’ll catch a ride with the boys, and you can drive it back tomorrow if that works.”

That earns me a grin worth the next two hours on my feet. “For you, Fi, I’d walk on hot coals.”

I snort, exchange my keys for his apron, and head behind the bar. “And that’s why you’ll never quit me.”

***

By closing time, there are a dozen patrons left in the pub, and I start the final cleanup behind the bar. Shannon balances the waitresses’ till and cashes Kady out for the night. Calum props a polluted but content Emmet in the booth by the door and starts lifting chairs. Dillan runs the hot water for the mop.

Each of the six of us has worked at Shenanigans at one time or another, so we all know our way around what needs to be done. Considering tonight’s crowd was almost completely our guest list, helping out is a no-brainer.

“Why don’t you head out, Kady,” I say.

She watches me tie up the night’s trash and nods. “Yeah. If you guys have things covered, I’m happy to cut and run a few minutes early. Thanks.”

I follow her down the back hallway with the two large garbage bags clenched in my hands. She stops inside the door and grabs her hoodie off the plaque of wall hooks. After shrugging it on, she frees her long, blonde hair from the back. “Thanks for helping out tonight, Fi. It’s always fun when your family hangs around.”

Translation: I like it when your family comes in so I can stare at your brother. I smile. Kady’s had a crush on Dillan for a donkey’s age, but he is as oblivious as she is shy. They’ve each had enough time to figure things out.

I’ll have to intervene.

The two of us step out the back door, and I follow her down the four metal steps and toward the dumpster. I heave my burden over the side of the massive green bin. My smile fades as my instincts kick in. The hair on my nape stands at full attention, and I turn.

A man steps out of the shadows in front of Kady.

“Hey,” I snap while waving my hand to shoo him off. “This is a staff area. Go home and sleep it off.”

The guy doesn’t move, and Kady is frozen in her tracks.

I look around for something to use as a weapon, but Shannon is meticulous about keeping the dumpster area clean.

I hustle to get to Kady, but the stranger is closer. He grabs her and pulls her by the wrist toward the back lane. When they step under the light of the streetlamp, I recognize him. I felt his gaze on the bar more than once tonight while I was working and caught him staring.

Is he stalking Kady?

Far more Wall Street than mean street, he didn’t set off my radar. Handsome, shabby-chic, and well-dressed, he doesn’t fit the bill of the men in the mugshot books Da and Calum pore over some nights.

Stupid. So were Bundy, Dahmer, and Bernardo.

I glance toward the back door and curse. It’s too far to get help and not lose track of Kady. Yelling won’t do any good either. The music is still playing inside.

It’s on me, then.

I hold up my palms and ease closer. Petite and willowy, I’m no one to be alarmed about, right? I study his hands and his hold. He doesn’t have a knife or a gun out. That’s a plus.

“How about you let go of my friend?” I make every effort to seem non-threatening. “It’s been a long night, and you don’t want trouble, do you? Kady and I will head back inside and forget you were ever here.”

He chuffs. “Off ye go, then.”

And leave Kady? Hells no. Had this been any other night, Kady would’ve thrown out the trash and been out here alone. Thank the luck of the Irish she’s not.

“Look.” I step closer and try to convey to Kady to remain calm. “You noticed a pretty blonde, and you made a bad decision. If I scream, a dozen cops will flood out that door, and someone’s liable to get hurt. Maybe you. Maybe her. You don’t want her to get hurt, do you?”

His gaze narrows on me as his mouth quirks up at the corners. He’s studying me studying him. He glances around the back lane and his smirk blooms into a smile. The car parked in the darkest spot between the light posts must be his.

His shoulders tighten as he secures his hold on Kady and moves to step back. He’s going to make a run for it.

Some might think having five brothers pound on a far smaller and weaker little sister is terrible. At times, maybe it was, but I learned at a young age if I didn’t fight back, I’d be toast. I can hold my own in an all-out fisticuff, and there’s no way this shadow-skirting gobshite is making off with Kady while I still have an ounce of breath in my lungs.

When he checks over his shoulder, I seize his moment of distraction and launch. I run and use momentum to boost my impact. My pulse pounds through my veins as I connect. The moment of surprise is short-lived, but I manage to land a solid palm-strike to his head.

The hit shifts his focus from Kady to me.

Twisting her free of his grasp, I shove her toward the back door. “Go!”

The iron grip on my shoulder makes the world spin. Hot breath washes my cheek, and the scent of cinnamon and pine trees assault my senses. He shakes me like a ragdoll and my brain rattles in my skull.

I fight my way free, but the violence of it knocks me flying forward. Off-balance, I go down. The asphalt bites into my hands and knees, and I hiss. My palms take the worst of it, but I scramble into a crouch. He’s between the pub and me, so my option is fight, not flight.

Game on, asshole.

With a banshee scream, I rush him, head down, shoulder-first. He cushions the hit, and we fight and grope. I’m out-weighted and out-muscled. That’s nothing new.

Hellcat works for me.

I’m clawing at his face while I slam my boot heel into the top of his foot. He curses and grips my elbow with bruising force and pulls me against his broad chest.

Twisting with all my weight, I make a solid grab for his crotch. My hands aren’t big, but I grab all I can and squeeze like I’m juicing an orange to a pulp.

“Bitch!”

My knee meets his face as he buckles over. Then I start punching. I don’t stop when he drops to the ground. I don’t stop when he’s got his arms over his head. Lost in a rabid rage, I lose track of the world around me.

The roar of fury brings him bursting back to his feet. He lifts me off the ground like I weigh nothing and slams me into the trunk of a tree. Pressed face-first against the rough bark, I try to push back.

I’ve got nothing left.

I twist in his hold but get nowhere. Where his palm presses between my shoulder blades, his touch burns my skin.

Prickly tingles zing into my cells, and my senses explode.

I groan, and he lets me go, sinking to a heap on the pebbled ground. My vision fritzes and my head goes wooly.

Blacking out is a bad idea.

I try to stay conscious, but…

“Ye’ve got fight in ye, kin of mac Cumhaill. I’ll give ye that.”

 

_________________________

Are you as excited as I was to find out what happened to Fiona? Then come back Friday, the 25th so see. Or better yet, get your pre-order in now so you won't have to worry about waiting. The book will show up in your library as soon as it goes live on Sunday, September 27th!

 

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Refreshing Week in Review September 13th-19th , 2020

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Breath in the fresh air with this Week in Review for September 13th- September 19th, 2020

 

 

Take in these stories released this week here: Week in Review

 

 

Rise of Magic:

Leira Berens is settling into the new house in DC, making new friends and setting up house with Correk and the troll. But there’s a monster loose in two worlds. Wolfstan Humphrey is looking for a seat at every table and he’s making the rounds. Will he take the deal from the Dark Families and hunt down Leira? Or will an old enemy, Axiom, make him a better offer?

 

The Bound Legacy:

Lexi and the team take a well-earned break in New Orleans while she follows the trail of her forgotten past. But when a resurrected voodoo queen goes on a killing spree and tensions between the city’s vampire factions escalate, Lexi is reluctantly drawn into a new investigation. For once, Lexi would welcome Kindred’s involvement but they are suspiciously absent. When they finally return to the Crescent City, they bring with them startling secrets about Lexi’s past.

 

Bad Attitude:

If Were tradition forced you to marry at twenty-five, would you do it? Bailey Nordin is feeling the stress of pack obligations arriving too soon in her life. She prefers working on cars to going on a date. A good fight is just a morning’s workout, and Bailey's sarcastic wit has killed any chance of a love life. Her future isn't looking bright.

 

A Bit Aggressive:

Helping bust up a kidnapping ring should give Bailey some leeway, shouldn’t it? It does, but only a little. There are idiots, and then there are suicidal idiots. For some reason, Bailey seems to attract the latter. Bailey is getting stronger, and her feelings for fake boyfriend Roland are becoming problematic. Some strangers try to help, some strangers attack without provocation. If Weres are looking for a fight, they should remember she never backs down.

Breath easy with this: Week in Review

 

Industrious Fan's Pricing Saturday September 19th, 2020

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These heroes are working hard to keep their world safe on this Fan’s Pricing Saturday

Note:  We requested the price changes from Amazon on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, they don’t change all of the prices at one time. Please double-check the price before clicking “Buy”.)

All of these new releases are 99c for one day only!
And they are also available for FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Grab them today before the prices go up!

 

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Rise Of Magic

 

 

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Bad Attitude

 

 

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A Bit Aggressive 

 

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Birth of Heavy Metal Boxed Set

 

 

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Promises Kept

 

 

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The Bound Legacy

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Wellspring Wild Wednesday September 16th, 2020

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It's a wellspring of books on this Wild Wednesday, and at a great discount!

Welcome to Wild Wednesday for September 16th, 2020

Each week we bring you a list of books from not only LMBPN authors, but also friends of ours, that are on sale! Here’s a fantastic opportunity to discover some new authors or some exciting books you may not have seen yet.

Most of these books are FREE in Kindle Unlimited, but all are on sale today.

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Birth of Heavy Metal Boxed Set

 

 

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Dying World

 

 

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Hatchling 

 

 

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Necrotech

 

 

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Sanctuary

 

 

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Legend of the Sword Bearer

 

 

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Grave Beginnings

 

 

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Bad Attitude- Free

 

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Intrepid Week in Review September 6th-12th, 2020

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Heroines keep fighting the fight in this Week in Review for September 6th- September 12th, 2020

 

Are you caught up on these series? If not check out the new releases here: Week in Review

 

 

Warmage: Night Riders:

The clock is ticking for Raven and her friends and things are only going to get worse before they get better. The search is on for a spell in the Valley of Keepers, while everyone else tries to keep things running smoothly back home. Easier said than done. Armed with her mom’s sword and a magical map, Raven and her dragon set off to find the last thing they need. Will the two be able to find it in time? Can Raven and Leander get back to Lomberdoon in time to set things straight?

 

Adverse Possession:

The Federation sends Rivka and her team to resolve a case of settlers squatting on a remote planet when the owners finally came calling. Not what it seems. Three generations of settlers and more. A planet that isn’t as welcoming as it appears. Crops coming ripe. Miners ready to dig. Tempers flare as the sides face off. Until the Magistrate gets in the middle of it with all the firepower at her command – the law, a calm voice. and a good railgun.

 

Promises Kept:

When Bethany Anne makes a promise, heavens and planets will be moved to keep it. She swore to protect the Federation before taking the fight to the Kurtherians. Nine months into the tour, and the Federation is still vulnerable when Gödel strikes. Renewed alliances bring the Federation together to fight the anti-Empire movement threatening its stability.

Continue reading 3 of your favorite series here: Week in Review

 

 

Superabundant Fan's Pricing Saturday September 12, 2020

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Cozy up this weekend with this Superabundant Fan’s Pricing Saturday

Note:  We requested the price changes from Amazon on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, they don’t change all of the prices at one time. Please double-check the price before clicking “Buy”.)

All of these new releases are 99c for one day only!
And they are also available for FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Grab them today before the prices go up!

 

 

GHOSTS OF SUMMERLEIGH COMPLETE COLLECTION

The Ghosts of Summerleigh Collection

 

 

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The Flawed Legacy

 

 

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Warmage: Night Riders

 

 

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The Forbidden Portal

 

 

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You Have Been Judged

 

 

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Destroy the Corrupt

 

 

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Serial Killer

 

 

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Your Life is Forfeit

 


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Slave Trade

 

 

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Fratricide

 

 

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The Art of Smuggling

 

 

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Dispute

 

 

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The Rise of The Al

 


ADVERSE POSSESSION

Adverse Possession

 

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The Tales of the Feisty Druid Boxed Set

 

 

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Crisp and Cool Wild Wednesday September 9th, 2020

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Enjoy the cooler weather on this Wild Wednesday, and at a great discount!

 

 

Welcome to Wild Wednesday for September 9th, 2020

 

 

Each week we bring you a list of books from not only LMBPN authors, but also friends of ours, that are on sale! Here’s a fantastic opportunity to discover some new authors or some exciting books you may not have seen yet.

 

Most of these books are FREE in Kindle Unlimited, but all are on sale today.

Please remember to double-check the price before you one-click.

 

 

YOU HAVE BEEN JUDGED E-BOOK COVER

You have Been Judged- FREE

 

 

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Destroy the Corrupt

 

 

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Serial Killer 

 

 

YOUR LIFE IS FORFEIT e-book cover

Your Life is Forfeit

 

 

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Slave Trade

 

 

FRATRICIDE E-BOOK COVER

Fratricide

 

 

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The Art of Smuggling

 

 

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Dispute

 

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Rise of the Al

 

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Tales of the Feisty Druid Boxed Set: Books 1-7

 

 

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Werewolf of Marines

 

Don’t miss out on these other fantastic promotions! Just click the banner and go to the web page.

 

 

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Haunting Week in Review August 30th- September 5th

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 Ghosts and beasts from the past fill this Week in Review for August 30th – September 5th, 2020

 

Did you see all of the exciting books we launched this week? Check out the list here: Week in Review

 

 

Steel Dragon:

The mage uprising has been put down, but it wasn’t enough. Dragons have become aware that humans can arm themselves with weapons deadly to even dragonkind. Dragons are living in fear of humans for the first time in living memory, and they hate it. The war has arrived. Lord Boneclaw will lead the armies of dragonkind to decimate humanity. Their aim is to slaughter billions, thus bringing the threat back under control. Only one thing stands in their path.

No Time to Quit:

He has a chance to regain a bit of the fun when his friend agrees to go mountain climbing before the big day. Cynical and self-absorbed he never considers the consequences until he wakes up. He can move, but has lost all memory of HOW to move, Anything. There is a promising technique that requires Benjamin to enter a virtual world. The problem? He will be forced to admit to his fears.

 

The Ghost of Summerleigh Complete Collection:

Jerica Poole had no idea how quickly life could change until hers is ripped apart at the seams. The troubled nurse makes the journey to Harper's hometown of Desire, Mississippi, and immediately finds herself swept up in a 75-year-old mystery: what happened to Jeopardy Belle? When she begins exploring the Belles’ old homestead, Summerleigh, she discovers that some of the former tenants live on in ghostly form and would love nothing more than to add Jerica to their numbers.

The Ghosts of Summerleigh Collection contains the entire trilogy by M.L. Bullock including The Belles of Desire, Mississippi, The Ghost of Jeopardy Belle and The Lady in White.

 

With 2 books and a collection released this week find out what is haunting our Protagonists here: Week in Review

 

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