Those of you who don't know me may think that's a harsh statement. Those of you who do know me may think that it's not harsh enough. Either way, it's true.
I'm busy. I like a little stress, so normally I don't mind being busy. During the fall I have: work, a full class schedule (business law isn't as scary as I thought it would be but statistics is killing me), normal family/house stuff, and college football. Guess which one of those takes priority (here's a hint... touchdown!).
I usually try to plan my writing schedule and releases (mostly the editing time) around that schedule. Meaning that things generally get done before football starts. I dropped the ball this time. My big project Hearts of Glass and Fire, which is a departure from the other novels I've published, isn't done yet. I tentatively have it scheduled for release in January of 2015.
But then I remembered that my lease is up in November, and that I really, really hate my hour-and-a-half daily commute. Thanksgiving will be spent moving and not wrapping up all my story's loose ends.
So, to keep Hearts of Glass and Fire alive in your minds, I will be posting snippets and thoughts on it. As always, feedback is welcomed with open arms. Here is a snippet from the first chapter.
Phone calls from the Harris County District Attorney are rarely a good thing. The probability that I'm going to like what Matt Anders has to say diminishes exponentially on Friday nights. When the conversation starts with the words "favor" and "friend", I know my night is destined for hell.
"Whatever you want will have to wait until tomorrow." I'm running ten minutes behind schedule, thanks to the moron who caused the three-car pileup on the Katy Freeway. Kassiopa Taylor is a stickler about punctuality. If I'm two seconds late for our date, I'll miss out on what I'm told is the hottest use of tassels on the planet. Nothing Matt could promise could make up for missing Kassie's tassels.
"The Mage of New Orleans is in town, Rick."
Intriguing, but this isn't New Orleans and I'm not a member of the Mages' Council. The Council tends to bar its fancy doors when hairy creatures with sharp fangs and short tempers come skulking around. Not that I'm bitter. I have no use for a bunch of pansy-ass magic users who hide behind incantations and wands when things get rough.
"Sorry, Matt. Call me in the morning."
"He has a job for you."
"Five times my normal rate." My rate alone is exorbitant because, yes, I am just that good. I don't, for one second, believe that Matt'll go for it. It's a quick way to get him off the phone so I can get going. The last man Kassiopa sent packing leapt off his ninth-story balcony.
Well, hell. Ms. Taylor is a walking cure for erectile dysfunction, but there are plenty of hot redheads in the city. At five times my normal rate, even a two-hour case will make up for the lackluster month I've had. It'll get the mortgage company off my ass, and I can see about replenishing the pack's anorexic slush fund.
"Your office. Twenty minutes."
I hang up on Matt and consider calling Kassiopa. Nah. Text is the way to go. She is a dream to look at, but her voice is worse than a drunken Warsah attempting a mating call. Guess I won't need those earplugs after all.
Matt paces the sidewalk outside the Criminal Justice Center like hellhounds are nipping at his heels. The relief that washes over his face when he spots me sends apprehension trickling down my spine. I should have gone for eight times my rate or instituted the “Oh Shit” retainer clause.
"Parking garage," he says, hand extended but not touching me. Smart man. Touching is a no-no. "This meeting never happened."
Of course not. Because nothing ever goes wrong when there are clandestine meetings involved. "What's going on?"
"The Mage needs a bodyguard for his daughter. He said that this was something only a Shifter could handle.”
Okay, no. I stop in the middle of the sidewalk. A uniformed cop gives me a dirty look. I glare right back. Keep moving, bud. Plenty of concrete to go around.
I don't do bodyguard work. It's been rule numero uno since I got my PI license. I'd rather carry a silver tea tray and blister the fuck out of my hands than play babysitter for a sniveling, little rich kid. I don't have the patience for it, and I'm far too pretty for prison.
"Ten thousand a day plus expenses," Matt says.
Damn. The Mage's little brat must be a hellion. "What's the catch?"
"No one can know she's here." Matt rakes a hand through his girly hair. "I didn't even know he had a daughter until this afternoon. He’s worked hard to keep her out of the spotlight."
Handcuffs, even enchanted ones, are relatively cheap. So are ball gags. For two hundred bucks, I could keep the brat locked up in one of the pack's safe houses and catch up on my reality TV. I can't cave that easy, though. If you give Matt a bit of slack, he'll tie a noose.
"I want to meet her first."
Matt flashes that oil-slick smile that got him elected three times in a row. "Sure. She's in the parking garage."
“Is this a recommendation you expect a cut on?”
“No.” Matt shrugs suit-clad shoulders. “He already had your name. I’ve worked with him a time or two. He called once he was already in Houston and asked me to set up this meeting. He requested you. He said he’d consider it a favor from both of us. This is the kind of man you want to owe you a favor”
I’ve met the Mage once, but I’ve never worked with him or for him. I am not sure if having a reputation that stretches all the way to New Orleans is a good thing or a bad thing. At least I won’t have to kick Matt’s ass for setting me up for a babysitting gig.
Despite the prestige of his position as Mage of New Orleans, Leo Vardan isn't much over fifty. His brat has to be a kid. Teenager at the oldest. Probably got caught with drugs or got involved with something way her brainless head and has to stay out of sight until Daddy can smooth things over. She's likely spoiled as the milk in my fridge. A fairy princess locked up in an ivory tower. Rapunzel with an attitude. Wonderful.
Giddy laughter echoes through the dark parking garage. The madness threaded through the tone raises my hackles. I instinctively move closer to Matt to protect the weaker animal. "Someone get loose or something?"
“We’re almost there." Matt's nervous now. Rat bastard. He knows more than he’s said. Once this is over, I'll point out how painful it is to keep things from me.
"Astraea!" Leo Vardan's voice cracks like thunder. "Remain still."
More laughter. The lights around us flicker. Two bulbs burst. I don't have a chance to react to the pounding of feet on the concrete before a warm, squishy freight train slams into me. I hit the ground flat on my back. There's a cackling anchor on my chest and absolutely no air in my lungs. Spots dance in front of my eyes. It's too early for fireworks.
Small, hot hands slap my cheeks. At the first scrape of fingernails, I snatch up two thin wrists in one hand. The bones are fragile and creak with the slightest squeeze. The cackling stops.
The voice is feminine but too old for a teenager. Older than twenty. Younger than thirty. Slight southern drawl under the laughter. She doesn't sound sorry, either. Something just out of touch with reality lingers in her tone. Hell. Just what I needed. Why do I always get the batshit ones?