Special First Look in A REAPER MADE: Rhys

We’re approximately 2 weeks away from release day for A REAPER MADE. I’m suddenly remembering that this is a real book, that real people will hopefully read and enjoy. Maybe my nerves are a little tight. Maybe I’m stress eating. Maybe just read this new little excerpt and let me know your thoughts…! 😀

Some context: This is part of Chapter 4. Grace, her mentor Tully, and best friend (and witch) Tessa visit a supernatural bar named Luther’s in order to meet one of Tully’s contacts. Luther’s is the big introduction to how this fictional supernatural world works. Grace’s mentor has had suspicions about souls being taken, so he’s called someone who can help. This is the introduction of Rhys, a Shapeshifter ally I had fun getting to know. Writing characters is such a unique process, their very beings coming to and sort of bossing you around with what they’ll do. Rhys is one of those characters. Hope you enjoy!

CHAPTER 4

Luther’s was dark and smoky, the shadows shifting as their owners got comfortable. Music played in the background while murmurs of conversation floated between the tables. Supernatural beings (supes) knew they were safe here; no dark magic or demons were allowed. Anyone else, however, was welcome to spend their money here, including the two vampires at the bar, a suspiciously hairy guy to the far right, and several others who appeared human but I knew would be anything but.

Inside Luther’s everyone got along, no matter how many of us went bump in the night. Tully said it was actually humans with their fairy tales and bedtime stories that made people think supes couldn’t get along. Like that old vampire versus werewolf stigma – provided they stuck to their own territories and didn’t attack each other, they had no beef. They were happy to ignore each other, while other supes got along just fine. We all knew that demons were the ones to fear.

A voice snapped me out of my people-watching. “Didn’t think you’d actually come, Tully.”

“Why is that?” Tully asked the tall shadow in front of us.

The voice became clearer as its owner stepped in front of us. “Reapers don’t spend a lot of time in bars.”

I looked up to see him standing at our table, a handsome man that had plenty of eyes following him to our table. The brown bomber jacket and navy henley shirt couldn’t hide his broad shoulders and chest. His dark hair fell in a neat sweep, trimmed on the sides and just tousled enough to be fashionable. Dark eyes flashed beneath his brows as he scanned the room over his shoulder. I was surprised at his good looks; most shifters chose not to stand out in crowds, instead choosing average and forgettable appearances. This guy would catch attention standing next to movie stars.

“Rhys,” Tully greeted him. “Have a seat.”

Rhys had already caught the waitress, a cold beer bottle in his left hand. He slid into the booth next to my mentor. He gave me a nod, but his eyes lingered on Tessa. “Hi there.”

She bobbed her head in greeting, more interested in the why than the who. “Hey.”

Rhys looked at Tully, motioning to Tessa. “How come you didn’t tell me about her?”

“I did,” Tully said, his reply short, “she is the witch.”

“Usually when they’re her age, they’re covered in warts,” Rhys said.

Tessa’s brown eyes narrowed over her drink. “Keep your comments to yourself and your tongue will stay in that shifty mouth.”

I bit my lip to keep from laughing, used to Tessa’s aggressive stance to strange men, supernatural or otherwise. Tessa had been around long enough not to trust just anyone, especially someone who could change their appearance at will. Rhys grinned at her, taking no offense at her statement. Talk about a heartthrob; his straight white teeth would’ve dazzled me had I been a living teenager.

“Thank you for meeting me here,” Tully said, bringing us back to the topic at hand. “If you don’t mind, I would like to dive right into why I needed to speak with you.”

“By all means,” Rhys said, his face becoming businesslike. “Did you bring what we discussed?”

Tully gave him a sharp nod, passed a blank yellow envelope to the shifter. I hadn’t even raised an eyebrow before Rhys slipped it into his inside jacket pocket. I didn’t miss Tessa’s nudge to my leg as we both wondered what the hell was in that envelope. It wasn’t like Tully to make sketchy deals; doubt began to build in my chest. Tully didn’t see my worried expression.

“What did you find out?” Tully asked, his voice so low we had to lean in to hear him.

Rhys shifted so that his back was to the outside of the booth to prevent outside listeners. His eyes flicked to us and back to Tully.

“It’s what you suspected,” he said. “Souls aren’t passing over. Half the state’s been deposed of Reapers and no one’s got a clue as to where they went.”

A gasp escaped me; I hadn’t known what to expect but that certainly hadn’t been it. Tully shot me an annoyed look before turning back to Rhys. Tully looked, for lack of a better word, puzzled. I’d never seen his face so curious or lost.

“Are you certain? I have noticed there are more living than not as of late,” he said. “Souls are not crossing over the way they should.”

“Couldn’t that be an overpopulation problem?” I asked, my eyes going back and forth on the men. “You know, make more Reapers and solve the problem?”

Rhys shook his head. “My girl ‘H’ is a solid resource. Says there’s been rumblings of a magical entity, something outside of the usual stuff. Could be someone’s harnessing power.”

“Like who?” Tessa butted in.

“Dunno.” Rhys shrugged. His eyes twinkled as he smirked at her. “Maybe witches.”

She scoffed at the dig. “Or a greedy shifter.”

Rhys almost smiled at her return, clearly enjoying the dynamic. Tully stuck his hand in the middle of the table to get between them.

“Now, now,” Tully said, “if we had to guess, I would insist on the obvious choice of a demon.”

A shadow seemed to come over our table, our expressions sour at the mere word. No one liked demons. Both the witch and shifter paused long enough to consider the Reaper’s statement. When the silence continued, Tully nodded to his confidante.

“Thank you for your help, Rhys,” Tully said.

Rhys drained his beer bottle and nodded, slipping out of the booth. “If you need anything else, you know where to find me. Ladies, here’s my number if you need anything. Anything at all.”

He dropped a piece of paper across the table and gave us a nod. He snuck in a wink to Tessa, who rolled her eyes. I looked down at the table to prevent Tully seeing my grin. Rhys made his way to the exit, slipping out the door without another glance.

Exclusive Chapter Release + Synopsis: A REAPER MADE

ReaperFBCover

Today I wanted to share a piece of my upcoming release A REAPER MADE. In case you haven’t seen the synopsis on the book page, here’s what you have to look forward to in this fun full-length NA fantasy novel!

Synopsis:
Grace had finally gotten used to her new afterlife as a “Made” – a Reaper who used to be human. When Made Reapers and souls begin disappearing, however, Grace and her mentor Tully suspect demons. Grace’s worst fears are confirmed when her living family is threatened.

She’ll have to break every rule in the Reaper book to save them, including using a little magic to become temporarily human. With the help of Tully and her witchy friend Tessa, Grace goes undercover to save the fates of kidnapped souls – only to discover that demons aren’t working alone. Betrayal and distrust runs deep and Grace discovers that sometimes even Reapers are prone to humanity.

I also wanted to share an exclusive sneak peek and am happy to reveal the first full chapter to you now! Keep reading to learn more about Grace and her Reaper responsibilities and be sure to check back on the book page for updates, the upcoming cover reveal, reviews, purchase links, and more. A REAPER MADE is scheduled for a late October release – just in time for Halloween!

A REAPER MADE – CHAPTER 1

The old woman in the hospital bed took in a ragged sigh that sounded like a struggle. She looked around the room, to the bouquet of wildflowers that sat in a plastic jar at the foot of her bed. Then her watery blue eyes focused in on me, sitting in the chair next to her. I sat up, leaned in to take her wrinkled hand in my smooth one.

“Who are you?” she asked, her tone fearful.

“I think you already know the answer to that, Anna,” I said, keeping my voice low and smooth. No need to further frighten them before they passed on.

“An angel?”

I shook my head, a curtain of dark hair swaying with the motion. She swallowed hard.

“You’re Death.”

“Not quite. More like an escort.”

“A R-reaper.”

Many humans knew us by name, but it still surprised me when they came out and said it. I nodded, a slow movement to prevent her from panicking. Everyone feared dying. It was my job to help them transition.

Anna looked to the closed door and back to me. “You…can anyone else see you?”

“When I want them to, yes. Right now, however, it’s just you and me.”

The old woman blinked hard and when she opened them again, a single tear streaked down her cheek. I gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Anna, it’s all right. You’re moving on.”

“To where?”

I shook my head. “I can’t answer that. No one can. You must discover it for yourself.”

Anna withdrew her trembling hand from mine, put it over her heart. “I don’t know if I’m ready.”

“I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.”

“What about my family? My daughter, my grandchildren? Can I say goodbye?”

“You saw them this morning, don’t you remember?”

Confusion crossed her face. Anna had been struggling with dementia in addition to her illness, but I knew to be patient. It was in the job description. When she still didn’t speak, I prodded a little.

“Anna, it’s time.”

She gave me another scared look. “Will it hurt?”

“No,” I assured her. “All you need to do is close your eyes and relax.”

Anna appeared to consider her options, her grip tightening on the thin sheets. She sucked in a deep breath, wincing at the rattle in her lungs. Then she steeled herself, looked at me and nodded. “Okay. I’m ready.”

I gave her a warm smile and put my hands on hers. “Close your eyes.”

She did as instructed, the scared look on her face fading as she relaxed into the bed. I sent warmth from my hands to hers, waited for her soul to disengage from her physical body. After maybe ten seconds, I felt a shift in Anna. A sigh escaped her, the air leaving her withering lungs and decaying body. Keeping my hands on hers, I stood and waited.

Then Anna’s spirit came forward, her hand in mine as she lifted herself from the physical plane. Without problem, Anna stood tall next to me, looking younger than she had in years. Her body may have been old and weathered, but her soul, as like most others, appeared younger, vibrant. Most of the older souls, once out of the body that held them back, were happy to feel alive again. It was one of my favorite things about the job, to see the light shine in their eyes after years of aging and physical pain.

Anna gripped my hand, looked back to her body lying peacefully on the bed. She gave me a relieved look. “You were right, that didn’t hurt at all.”

“I’m glad,” I told her with a smile. “Do you want to say goodbye?”

“To that old thing?” she said, waving her hand at her wrinkled body. “I suppose I should, but now that I’m out, all I can think about is the next step.”

“Not unusual,” I said, the corners of my mouth turning upward. Now that Anna was free, the spunk she’d had in her youth returned. I motioned my head towards the door. “Come. Walk with me.”

She didn’t let go of my hand as we walked through the door and out into the hallway. No one so much as blinked at us as we wandered. At first, Anna tried to skirt around obstacles and people, before she realized she went right through them. Before we’d even reached the end of the hallway, she was practically skipping.

“I haven’t felt this good in years,” she said. “Do you think I’ll reunite with my husband?”

“I can’t answer that for certain, but he’ll know you’re coming. He’ll find you if he can.”

“He used to say he’d follow me anywhere. I’ve missed him so much.” She smiled at the memory, then paused as though realizing something. She turned to me. “What is your name?”

“Grace.”

“Grace,” she repeated. “Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure. Would you like to continue walking or do you think you’re ready?”

Anxiety flashed across Anna’s face before she swallowed hard and nodded. “I think…I think I’m ready to go.”

I squeezed her hand. “May you find peace in your afterlife.”

A warm breeze swept through the hallway, though the living continued as though nothing were happening. The wind found us, circled around and played with my and Anna’s hair. I let go of her hand and took a step back as Anna looked around.

“Am I supposed to walk into the light?” she asked.

I couldn’t help but smile at the question; it seemed like everyone always asked. I shook my head. “There are no bright lights. It’s okay – take a deep breath and be patient.”

Souls didn’t need to breathe, but I always saw them do it before they moved on. It seemed to calm them down as it would’ve had they been in their human bodies. Old habits died hard, I supposed, but if that helped them feel better, I saw no need to point it out.

The breeze picked up, turned into an unseen tornado that swirled around Anna. Her hair went in every direction but her posture stayed still. As she closed her eyes, I saw a smile grow on her face. Then the wind took her, and Anna’s soul faded away in front of my eyes. Warmth grew in my chest, as it usually did with each peaceful passing, and I smiled briefly before turning back into the retirement home to find the next soul.

BURNED Exclusive: Chapter One Reveal

With only a few days left until the release of BURNED, A Donovan Circus Novel, I wanted to give you guys a taste of what’s to come. Newsletter subscribers received this a few weeks ago as a special sneak peek (be sure to sign up for more exclusive content, news, and freebies) and now it’s your turn. Without further ado, before even its release on Amazon, I give you Chapter 1 of BURNED.

Burned, A Donovan Circus Novel
Chapter 1

“Welcome back for the second act of the Donovan Circus!” Ringmaster Sheffield Donovan shouted into his microphone. “Look high in the sky and prepare yourselves for our amazing acrobats!”

Children and adults yelled their praises, clapped their hands as they waited for the performers to come out and entertain them. I watched as their faces turned up at Sheffield’s command, towards the heavens where six beautiful acrobats defied gravity as they twisted and flipped in midair. The crowd gasped in delight at each turn, hoping against hope that no one would plummet to the dirt floor so many feet below. Unbeknownst to the crowd, there was no chance of that happening, not when several of those acrobats were Levitators who could float themselves off the ground.

After flawless execution from the acrobats, the next several acts proceeded as usual. I saw my friend Bianca go out to the center ring with her dog Henry. Even though I’d seen their tricks at least thirty times now, the tiny Jack Russell jumping through hoops and dancing for Bianca never failed to make me smile. When it came time for the fiery motorcycle ball, however, my smile faded. Keegan and Nikolas, two other Firestarters, rolled their bikes in; my heart constricted at the sight of dark-haired, green-eyed Keegan, his handsome features focused on his performance.

I raised my hand at him in greeting, but he never looked in my direction. In fact, no one would look at me. I walked around and tried to speak to people but they ignored me. None of my friends would look over, not even my roommate Delia. Everyone stood still, looking straight ahead into the center ring.

Sheffield turned around to look at me. “What’s the matter, kid?”

His voice thundered through the microphone but the audience paid no attention, still enthralled by the performers. Sheffield’s familiar blond coif and handlebar mustache began to change. I opened my mouth to respond but paused as he shimmered, flames creeping up his limbs. He looked down at the orange and red that spread across his body, gave me a puzzled glance. The fire overtook him, so bright I had to look away for a second. When they died out, another person stood in his place, a small man with graying hair and wire-rimmed glasses.

“No.” My voice shook. “I-I killed you.”

“I’m disappointed in you, Lucy,” Dr. Felix J. Hardy hissed at me. “I thought you’d get to the bottom of things, learn the truth about your father and this show. Instead you hide. Don’t you burn to know?”

I cast a desperate look around for help, but no one stepped up. They stood in silence, unaffected by the exchange between me and the mad scientist I’d killed three weeks ago in self-defense.

Felix stepped towards me and a small flame erupted in his palm. The fire looked exactly like the one that had killed him, with a blue base that belonged to only the most powerful Firestarters, ones like me and my father.

“That’s impossible,” I whispered, rooted to my spot. “You weren’t a real Firestarter.”

“Something’s coming for the Donovan Circus, girl. Everything changed when you killed me.”

A shadow moved behind him, caught in the Big Top’s lights. Whatever the shadow belonged to dashed into the bleachers. I moved to warn the crowd, but they continued to watch the show in the center ring, ignorant to the hulking shape at their backs.

I turned to Felix. “What’s coming?”

“You’ll know soon enough.” The corner of his mouth quirked upward.

“Luce,” someone behind me called.

The knot in my stomach tightened at the voice; I turned to see Gabriel, beautiful, blond Gabriel with his deep blue eyes and muscled physique. He and Keegan stood next to one another, both with serious looks.

“You can’t avoid us forever,” they said.

“Try me,” I muttered.

“We’re perfect for each other,” Keegan said.

“I’m in love with you,” Gabriel added.

“Be ready, Firestarter,” Felix crowed behind me. I looked over my shoulder, back to the murderer I’d protected us all from.

Felix threw a fireball and the flames engulfed me. Between the colors, I saw the shadow leave the bleachers and creep near, a giant, four-footed creature that stalked towards me as I burned. I heard it licks its chops when my skin sizzled. Pain spread through me. Felix’s laughter echoed in my ears as everything went black.

My eyes snapped open as I jolted upright in bed, hands moving to put out the imaginary flames. My sweat-soaked clothes clung to my skin, my red hair plastered to my head. A groan escaped me as I flopped back down, trying to will the nightmare away.

I looked over at Delia, asleep in her bed. She hadn’t so much as twitched at my outburst. I envied her; she was the heaviest sleeper I’d ever met. Perhaps her conscience was simply lighter than mine.

Felix’s whisper rang in my ears. Something is coming. I shivered as the beastly shadow came into the forefront of the memory. This wasn’t the first nightmare I’d had since that night I’d killed the scientist. Not a day went by where memories didn’t remind me of the sins I’d committed in order to protect our gifted family. Felix’s burnt body still haunted my dreams and tonight his appearance reminded me of how dangerous this world had become. I was no psychic, but I didn’t doubt my nightmare hinted at a grain of truth.

Despite the small circus grounds, I’d done a hell of a job avoiding people for the last three weeks. Somehow I’d managed to dodge two boys – both on the same mission – and lots of questions from troupe members. Sheffield, however, seemed to be evading me to the same extent. While he’d needed to heal before we sat down to discuss my family history, he should be perfectly healthy now, yet hadn’t tracked me down. The last two times I’d gone to his camper, he hadn’t answered the door and I’d definitely heard a rustle of movement the second time.

The Donovan Circus was halfway into its schedule in a new city. Between packing up from our last location and now settling into the new one, I’d become a professional at avoiding two specific conversations. Keegan, the perfect-on-paper nice guy, and Gabriel, the bad boy turned reluctant hero, had both confessed they wanted to pursue more with me. As I’d never let my emotions become a factor in my life before now, this ridiculous love triangle had me in a snit. Was it possible to be in love with two people at the same time?

I was not the girl that got caught up in these kinds of things. A lot had happened to me since my return to this world almost two months ago. With my current job occupation, recently acquired friends, and a gift I’d had forever, that was putting it mildly.

The cherry on top was the flood of emotions that now constantly buzzed on the surface. Before coming back, I’d never had any problems shoving back my feelings. After Gabriel gave me an emotional jumpstart to defeat Felix, however, I was always on the verge of catching fire. The guilt I had over taking a man’s life threatened to consume me anytime someone so much as mentioned him. The smallest things would set my hands ablaze, things that I used to be able to handle. I couldn’t get my emotions under control and that made me a risk to everyone.

Lying there in bed, my brain screamed at me to get my priorities in order. If something was coming for us, how could we be ready?