Daisy Banks Blog

Stories to leave you spellbound.

Celebrate Release Day for Till Life Do Us Part

Please help celebrate release day for

Carmen Stefanescu’s latest book

Till Life Do US Part.

Till Life Do us part-001

Click the cover to buy.

Blurb

Barbara Heyer can hear voices of dead people. They whisper of their deaths, seek comfort for those left behind, and occasionally even warn her about future events. But when Barbara’s brother, Colin, is accused of murder, it will take more than her gift to prove his innocence.

Becoming smitten with the handsome investigator, Detective Patrick Fischer, is a serious complication given his assignment to her brother’s case. Barbara senses there is something far deeper—and perhaps much older—than the surface attraction between them. Could that be why she’s visited by a mysterious woman named Emma in her dreams? Could past life regression tie all the seemingly unconnected events together?

Barbara and Patrick must overcome heartache to find the truth to save Colin, and perhaps themselves.

 

My review of this story.

Till Life Do Us Part is a paranormal tale that investigates the power, passion, and problems associated with reincarnation. It is a compelling read and one I enjoyed. Ms. Stefanescu weaves a tale linking past and present laced with trauma, powerful love, deep emotions both good and bad, and leads the reader on a journey of many discoveries. The story is a wonderful mixture of events in the lives of several characters interlinked by the process of renincarnation. Such is the power of the writing I was never confused as to who or when things happened. The characters walk the pages of this book with powerful individualities and evoke a strong response in the reader. This is not always a gentle story but remains strong all the way through. The situations in the contemporary section are very realistic and more than once I was on the edge of my seat wondering how things would pan out. The historic elements of the story are well shown and offer glimpses of a time when the world was very different from the one we know.

All in all I enjoyed this tale. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a story that will sweep them away into another time and place, and offer them glimpses of the sheer strength of love.

 

carmenAuthor Bio

Carmen Stefanescu resides in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble – the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

Teacher of English and German in her native country and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world that of the books.

She has dreamed all her life to become a writer, but many of the things she wrote during those years remained just drawer projects. The fall of the Ceausescu’s regime in 1989 and the opening of the country to the world meant a new beginning for her. She started publishing. Several of her poems were successfully published in a collection of Contemporary English Poems, Muse Whispers vol.1 and Muse Whispers vol.2 by Midnight Edition Publication, in 2001 and 2002.

Her first novel, Shadows of the Past, was released in 2012 by Wild Child Publishing, USA.

Carmen joined the volunteer staff at Marketing For Romance Writers Author blog and is the coordinator of #Thursday13 posts.

 

You can stalk the author here:

http://shadowspastmystery.blogspot.ro/

https://twitter.com/Carmen_Books

http://www.pinterest.com/carmens007/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carmen-Stefanescu-Books/499245716760283

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624397.Carmen_Stefanescu

https://plus.google.com/117216040843648957646/posts

http://www.amazon.com/Carmen-Stefanescu/e/B00APVDGAA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Celebrate Release Day for Barbara’s Redemption.

 

Today is release day for

Barbara’s Redemption

by

Diane Saxon.

Congratulations Diane, on another super story and a stunning new cover.

This is an 18+ book.

Read the first Chapter below.

Barbaras_Redemption-Diane_Saxon-500x800

Click the cover to buy.

Blurb

 

Black Hawk pilot Captain Barbara Lynn Perry is running scared. Witness to an event too horrible to think about and too dangerous to talk of, she finds herself alienated from a world she has always had faith in.

With her Special Forces brother missing, she has only one other person to turn to. When her friend Flynn Swann isn’t available, Barbara is left with no choice but to trust the man Flynn sends to save her.

Psychiatrist Dominic Salter’s information from her superior officer’s file is that Barbara has gone rogue. Despite the damning evidence, every instinct tells him he’s dealing with an honorable woman, one who single-handedly saved Flynn from torture and a sure death. Dominic’s challenge is to delve his way beneath her tough, defensive attitude and coax the truth from a woman who’s too frightened to reveal her dark secret.

In his brand new facility containing a state of the art Dreampsych Transcender he’s experimenting with, a machine far beyond a simulator, Dominic has to gain the trust and confidence of Barbara while he resists the hard pull of attraction to this kick-ass woman.

Betrayed by a member of his staff, events take a sinister turn, and the pressure is on in a fight against time for Dominic to persuade Barbara to put her trust in him and reveal the truth before matters are taken out of his hands.

Pre-Order Links & Order Links

Amazon UK | Amazon.Com | https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/barbara-s-redemption   | iTunes

 

Excerpt

 

Chapter One

She raised a shaky hand to rub her fingertips over taut lips and tried to swallow, but her tongue was too thick to allow it, her mouth too dry to comply. She held the same hand horizontally in front of her face and watched the vague tremble. The tremor that threatened her sharp shot. The shake that no longer allowed her to pick up a glass of whiskey without being a dead giveaway.

She needed help.

Flynn.

Flynn could help.

She’d saved his life, goddammit. Of course he would help.

So she waited in the silent twilight for Flynn to come.

Pitch black descended and still no sign of the man. So dark she could no longer see the trembling hand in front of her face, but the sweat still formed in the creases along her palm, making her hand slip as she tightened her grip on the gun. She swapped it over from right to left while she rubbed the damp onto the leg of her black yoga pants. It made no difference, she could shoot as well with one hand as the other. Not that she could see to shoot, but she hadn’t imagined for one moment Flynn would have kept her waiting this long, and dark would close in before he arrived.

She’d hunkered down in the comfort of the straw, her mind filled with visions of blood and gunshots while night descended faster than she’d realized.

She’d kept Flynn waiting three nights previously. God only knew how long he’d waited for her, but she’d listened to her sixth sense, believed someone else was there at the meeting point, and she’d hightailed it out of there, leaving Flynn to his own devices. He was still a tough cookie. No point in her hanging around to save him. She’d already saved his sorry ass once before.

The dim light of the stables flickered on and filled the place with a dull buzzing sound. Cautious, she straightened and moved toward her target. The cowboy seemed to be the right height, but it looked like Flynn had gone to seed since leaving the Special Forces three years earlier. She’d heard rumors he hadn’t coped well with civilian life. Probably more to do with having half his face carved up. She twitched her nose in distaste. The voices of the men who had tortured him filled her head, the vicious sound of their hyena cackles as they cut Flynn with glee. It hadn’t been the prettiest of sights, but she’d seen worse. She’d even killed men herself, but never for fun. Only out of necessity, duty, and a desperate desire to live.

It was the pleasure they’d taken out of torturing a man that had turned her stomach. Not that anyone knew. She’d die before she allowed anyone to see her

weakness. It looked like she may have to, after recent events. She’d thought she’d never witness anything worse than Flynn’s torture. But she had.

She closed her eyes and took a moment to control her pulse rate before she stepped forward.

The cowboy turned, staggered slightly in the dead giveaway of a drunken sidestep, and smiled broad and sloppy as his unfocused gaze met hers. Drawing in a deep, slow breath, she realized her mistake. It wasn’t Flynn.

With no other option, Barbara tucked her gun into the back of her pants. It was a mistake she would never have made a month ago. One that under any other circumstances would have cost her life. Lucky for her, it was only some piss head in her way.

“Hey.” Loose-limbed, she stepped forward, a deliberate wide smile in place. “I’m looking for Flynn. Is he here?”

Confusion flitted across the man’s face, his brows pulled down in an exaggerated drunken frown.

“He’s a dipshit.”

Surprise at his viciousness stopped her advance as the man swayed, took two clumsy steps to his left before he gained his balance, and stood swaying before her. His thin lips twisted, bitter and angry.

“You’re not his girl. His girl’s a fuckin’ little bitch. Lost me my job and had me arrested.”

With barely a twitch of her eyebrow, Barbara skimmed her gaze over him. Nasty little fucker. Reminded her of her mother’s boyfriend. Several of her mother’s boyfriends. But one in particular had been a mean son of a bitch. He’d slapped her around plenty, until her mother had caught him and almost pulled his hair out by the roots. Her mother may have had scores of men come and go after Barbara’s father’s death, but she never let a single one mess with her daughter.

Barbara narrowed her eyes at him, never flinched as the horse behind her snorted and stamped impatiently in its stall. All her concentration centered on the drunk. She’d learned long ago with hard lessons not to take her gaze off the threat. This guy was definitely a threat.

“No, I’m not his girl. Have you seen him?”

He rubbed his hand over his lips, sly gaze darting sideways. “I heard he left with the slut.”

Muscles tense, Barbara felt the sick slide of dread. “Where’d he go?”

“New Zealand. They were talking about it in the jailhouse.”

“Who?”

“The fucking sheriff and his fucking deputies.”

“What were you doing there?” She wasn’t interested, but she could see him lowering his guard as they chatted. She never lowered hers. That’s what got you killed.

The guy turned his head and spat into the hay and then sneered at her. “Mistaken identity.” He held up a hand with fingers swathed in bandages.

“Uh-huh.”

“Flynn’s bitch said I went after her. It was her who attacked me and broke my fucking little finger.”

She repressed the desire to smile. She hadn’t much to smile about, but it seemed as though Flynn could have met his match after all.

“Stupid fuckers let my wife bail me out.”

Barbara couldn’t stop the blink of surprise. He had a wife? Poor woman.

“She’s my ex-wife.” His mean eyes flickered down. “She just wants rid of me.”

She could imagine why.

Barbara watched as he skimmed his bloodshot gaze over her, recognized the lascivious leer, and knew instinctively she wasn’t simply going to walk away from their encounter. “So, what are your plans?”

“Fuckers took my gun, but I had another one they didn’t know about at my stupid fucking wife’s house. She didn’t even know it was there. I’m going to take me a horse and ride out of here, and no one is going to stop me.”

She stepped back and spread her arms wide for him to carry on. “I wouldn’t want to try.”

He took a small, stumbling step forward and then lurched at her. Little shit, she never quite saw him coming. She’d somehow thought he would have a little more finesse. His body slammed into hers, and she realized what she’d thought was fat was one hell of a lot of solid muscle bound tightly in that fat.

As he took her down, she allowed her body to go loose. She anticipated the fast whoosh of air that expelled from her lungs, but his weight was a little harder and heavier than she had expected. Winded, she lay still for a long moment. By the time she recovered, he had her breast in his hand, squeezing it tightly. Pain and indignation radiated through her, but as she tried to move, he slung his leg over both of hers to pin her to the ground. The metal buckle on his belt dug hard into the flesh of her belly, and as she wriggled in the straw, the slide of it cut in deeper. The solid press of her own gun into her spine had her stilling.

The guy was an idiot; sometimes they just made it too easy by underestimating her. She may only be five feet four inches, but she was a trained soldier, goddammit.

With a weary sigh, she gave her head a disgusted shake and tightened her lips as she slipped his gun from his hip holster and held it against his temple before he could take another drunken grunt. She pulled back the hammer and met the surprise in his rheumy eyes. There was barely a tremor in her grip as her finger softened against the trigger. No need to terminate him, provided he was reasonable.

Bastard.

The quiet snick of metal stopped her mid thought.

“Take the gun away from Buddy’s head.” Mellow Irish tones reasoned with her from behind her head.

She held it firm, never so much as twitched.

The silver glint of a gun slid into her peripheral vision and kicked up her pulse.

“I’ve got him covered, Barbara, you can remove your gun.” Her name from the unfamiliar Irish voice had her hesitating.

The sour smell of whiskey puffed over her skin, and the bloated face of the drunk still lying on top of her gave her a moment’s pause. She could have simply immobilized him and left him writhing in agony on the floor by twisting his already broken finger, or she could blow his brains out, the stupid fuck.

It wouldn’t have bothered her.

Sweat slicked on the handle of the gun to make a liar of her. Who was she trying to kid? It was never a choice she’d make to deliberately take a life. He may be stupid, but he was no longer a threat.

 

Where to Find Diane Saxon

Author Website | Author Blog | Facebook  | Author Twitter | Goodreads Author |

Author Amazon Profile Page

 

About the Author

Diane Saxon lives in the Shropshire countryside with her tall, dark, handsome husband, two gorgeous daughters, a Dalmatian, one-eyed kitten, ginger cat, four chickens and a new black Labrador puppy called Beau, whose name has been borrowed for her hero in For Heaven’s Cakes.

 

After working for years in a demanding job, on-call and travelling great distances, Diane gave it all up when her husband said “follow that dream”.

 

Having been hidden all too long, her characters have burst forth demanding plot lines of their own and she’s found the more she lets them, the more they’re inclined to run wild.

 

Previous Books:

 

Loving Lydia -Atlantic Divide Book 1

Bad Girl Bill – Atlantic Divide Book 2

Finding Zoe – Atlantic Divide Book 3

Flight of Her Life

Flynn’s Kiss – Disarmed & Dangerous Book 1

Short Circuit Time

For Heaven’s Cakes

Banshee Seduction – Montgomery’s Sin, Book 1

A not so lovely blooming Monday.

1 Giant HOgweed

A not so lovely blooming Monday.

 

This astonishing plant stole my weekend. I discovered it in my garden and have spent most of the last two days getting rid of it. You might wonder why I would want to destroy it. This plant is sculptural in its beauty, almost architectural in its form, and surely a stunning addition to any garden.

Yes, it has a certain beauty about it and the prolific flowers offer pollen to all kinds of insects. Yet, I was compelled to do everything I could to try to take it out of the garden. The reason is, this is Heracleum Mantegazzianum, commonly known as Giant Hogweed.

The plant is highly toxic to humans and contact with it can cause horrific blistering and burns. In some cases the skin damage can be so bad people require hospital treatment. The results of burns from this plant can be long lasting photosensitivity to sunlight which can go on for years.  If any sap gets in the eyes it can cause temporary blindness, if the damage is bad, possibly permanent blindness. It is illegal to deliberately grow this in the UK. However, this plant does grow in the wild. It is usually eradicated when discovered because it is so dangerous to people who don’t recognise it.

I believe that the plant in my garden self set there. I certainly didn’t plant it. When I realised what it was, the plant stood at about three foot tall. Giant Hogweed can grow up to about fourteen foot. I believe all the growth has taken place this spring. To deal with this toxic plant I had to use my longest cutters so I could take it down section by section. I also had to wear gloves and I used an old welding mask I have in the garage to make sure the sap didn’t get in my eyes. I had to work quite slowly on this job because of how dangerous this plant can be. Most of it is down now but I have to deal with the root and make sure it hasn’t reproduced and set any young plants in the garden.

I hope the next lot of gardening I do will be more fun, less time consuming, and a whole lot safer than this weekend’s work. Do enjoy your garden if you have one, and I hope you don’t ever have to deal with something quite as difficult as Giant Hogweed.

 

Thanks for reading.

Daisy Banks

Cover Reveal for Till Life Do Us Part by Carmen Stefanescu,

 

Today I welcome Carmen Stefanescu with her beautiful new cover for her upcoming release.

 

Daisy, thank you so much for having me as your guest today.  You know my interest in anything odd –  paranormal, myths,  legends  – all that is out of the normal boundaries.  Reincarnation and chat with ghosts can be included, too.

I’m thrilled to be here, and excited to share the cover for my incoming release

Till Life Do Us Part

Till Life Do us part-001

Publisher: Solstice Publishing

Genre:  Paranormal Romance

Magic, Reincarnation, Mystery, Suspense

Release date: 9th June 2016

 

Blurb

Barbara Heyer can hear voices of dead people. They whisper of their deaths, seek comfort for those left behind, and occasionally even warn her about future events. But when Barbara’s brother, Colin, is accused of murder, it will take more than her gift to prove his innocence.

Becoming smitten with the handsome investigator, Detective Patrick Fischer, is a serious complication given his assignment to her brother’s case. Barbara senses there is something far deeper—and perhaps much older—than the surface attraction between them. Could that be why she’s visited by a mysterious woman named Emma in her dreams? Could past life regression tie all the seemingly unconnected events together?

Barbara and Patrick must overcome heartache to find the truth to save Colin, and perhaps themselves.

 

carmen

 

Author Bio

Carmen Stefanescu resides in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble – the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

Teacher of English and German in her native country and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world that of the books.

She has dreamed all her life to become a writer, but many of the things she wrote during those years remained just drawer projects. The fall of the Ceausescu’s regime in 1989 and the opening of the country to the world meant a new beginning for her. She started publishing. Several of her poems were successfully published in a collection of Contemporary English Poems, Muse Whispers vol.1 and Muse Whispers vol.2 by Midnight Edition Publication, in 2001 and 2002.

Her first novel, Shadows of the Past, was released in 2012 by Wild Child Publishing, USA.

Carmen joined the volunteer staff at Marketing For Romance Writers Author blog and is the coordinator of #Thursday13 posts.

 

You can stalk the author here:

http://shadowspastmystery.blogspot.ro/

https://twitter.com/Carmen_Books

http://www.pinterest.com/carmens007/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carmen-Stefanescu-Books/499245716760283

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624397.Carmen_Stefanescu

https://plus.google.com/117216040843648957646/posts

http://www.amazon.com/Carmen-Stefanescu/e/B00APVDGAA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Sunday Sexy Snippets.

New SexySnippets_Button

 

Welcome to Sunday Sexy Snippets and thanks to the Nuthouse Scribblers for their weekly challenge to offer seven sexy sentences from a work in progress or published work. To visit the Scribblers click the logo.

Please be aware Sexy Snippets often contain 18+ material. By continuing to read you acknowledge you are over 18.

My snippet this week comes from my newest story for the Sexy to Go anthologies. At present it is in the process of being editited so forgive any bloopers. This story will be out later in the year.

Enjoy.

Mike fetched the ironing board.

Please don’t imagine a thin legged metal piece. This early model happened to be a hefty block of wood with sturdy legs, a peculiar metal crank to extend the board and thick wadding on the ironing surface. I suddenly had an idea of why he’d fetched it. I shook my head as he set it up. “Not on there?”

“I thought this would be the perfect reminder as to why you’re getting this spanking.”

STG RR 1

Sexy to Go Volume 1 remains a free read for now. So, if you’ve not grabbed a copy yet click the cover to get yours.

These are the other authors contributing to Sexy Snippets this week. Do visit them too.

Sunday Sexy Snippets-Something New for Sexy to Go.

 

New SexySnippets_ButtonWelcome to Sunday Sexy Snippets & thanks to the Nuthouse Scribblers for the weekly challenge to offer seven sexy sentence from a work in progress or a published work.

Please be aware Sexy Snippets often contains 18+ material. By continuing to read you acknowledge you are over 18.

 

My snippet this week comes from a new story for the spanking special of Sexy to Go which will be out a little later in the year. As yet this is unedited so do forgive any bloopers you find.

Enjoy this seven.

 

“I’m not going to bed while everyone else is still up. I want another glass of wine.”

“Not a ghost of a chance. Bed.” Mike hauled me up and the room spun like a fairground ride as he dumped me across his shoulder. “There are times when you get the crazies I could cheerfully put you over my knee.”

“I bloody well wish you would,” I shouted, and for some reason the room became utterly silent.

STG RR 1

 

Sexy to Go 1 is a free read at present so why not click the cover to grab your copy if you haven’t got it already.

These are the other authors contributing to Sexy Snippets this week. Do visit them too.

List for Sunday 17th April


 

7th of April Release Day for Round Trip Fare by Barb Taub.

I’m delighted to welcome Barb Taub

to the blog today and help her celebrate the release of her new book.

Round Trip Fare

Round Trip Fare (Null City, Book 4)

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

 

Round_Trip_Fare-Barb_Taub-500x800

Click the cover to buy.

Blurb:

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey wonders— and not for the first time. But the Agency claims this will be an easy one. A quick pickup of a missing teen and she won’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably.

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.

And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying. Her to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.

Excerpt:

Was it wrong that shooting people was so much easier than finishing up the humanities requirements for her criminal justice degree? Carey Parker sipped her coffee and—not for the first time—wondered about herself. But the Agency said this would be an easy one. A quick pickup and she wouldn’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably.

There were two distinct advantages to her corner table at the rear of the self-consciously artistic coffee shop on the edge of Seattle’s eclectic Fremont district. Nobody could see her screen, and—infinitely more important—she had sole possession of the outlet currently charging both iPad and phone. She checked her iPad’s video screen to make sure the blonde teen she was tracking still had no idea she was being studied. Well, okay—studied along with the research materials for Carey’s overdue Humanities 201 essay. “Discuss the relationship of capitalism and patriarchal post constructivist theory. Provide data and cite literature supporting your thesis.” She squinted at the assignment, minimized to parallel the video window, and cringed.

Enlarging the video, Carey automatically evaluated her target. The teenager was a few inches under Carey’s own five-five. But where Carey’s cargo pants and hoodie hid a leanly muscled frame and a surprising number of weapons, the other girl’s designer Goth outfit made the most of her soft curves. Plus that pink streak in the younger girl’s hair was a little too shiny, her dark eyeliner a bit too creamy, while her wannabe goth leather jacket, fitted black T-shirt, and long dark skirt screamed Nordstrom personal shopper and Daddy’s credit card.

A lifetime of training—three years at the Academy, four more in the field—and they send me after Goth-Barbie. Carey sighed. Is it even worth it? But a flash memory—her guardian Harry’s blood-drenched golden hair, the almost-forgotten faces of her murdered parents, her missing brother and sister—stopped her. If she had a prayer of finding Gaby and Connor, she couldn’t afford to give up the all-important info access the Agency jobs provided. And then there was…him. For the past two months, the dark stranger had persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids where her harmonia gift visualized connections only she could view. Whatever trouble Mr. Six-Feet-Plus of arrogance is selling, I’m sure not buying.

“Excuse me. Do you need both outlets?”

Carey looked up to see the blonde standing in front of her, expectantly holding up her power cord. “Yes.” She returned her focus to the iPad screen, ignoring the muttered “bitch” as the girl went over to try her smile on the men two tables over. Her reversed video window showed the younger girl breathlessly thanking the man who leaped to free up an outlet for her. As she leaned over their table, the men’s eyes lit with appreciation for the way she maximized scoop-neck T-shirt, youth, and the best technology the foundations industry had to offer. Guess there’s all kinds of ways to say thank you.

Shrugging, Carey returned to her own essay assignment. Her business partner, Marley, was pushing her to finish the degree that would let them bill the Agency at a higher rate. But at twenty-four Carey felt a generation older than her fellow students. With her erratic hours, she had to take classes offering online options whenever possible, so she was currently sentenced to Humanities 201: Postmodernist Applications for Economic Themes in Literature.

“What took you so long? I’ve been waiting here for ages.”

At the sex-kitten whine, Carey’s eyes flicked back to the little video window to see the other girl pouting up at a new arrival. But her complaints didn’t stop her from giving the young man—a boy, really, although Marley’s data sheet said he was nineteen—a thorough tonsil cleaning. Pulling away, he threw himself into a dramatic slouch across the next chair, giving Carey her first good look at him. He was thin, but more like an adolescent whose slender arms and legs had yet to develop a man’s solid outlines. His pale fallen-angel face sulked behind long hair too carefully slashed and tossed over one eye to be accidental. He looked, Carey thought, beautiful and brooding and more than a little stupid. Score!

Pretending to check her phone, Carey took a quick picture of the boy and texted it along with the address of the coffee shop. It had only been a few days since he’d left home and stopped showing up at his classes or part-time job. Too little time for the police to be concerned, but long enough for his frantic parents to agree to her search fee. Setting the phone aside, she adjusted her video window to give him a critical once-over. But he didn’t seem any more pale or unhealthy than would be explained by devotion to the laptop he was even now pulling out and opening.

“Get me a coffee?” He didn’t look up from his laptop as he spoke. The girl pouted again but bounced off. Returning with a cup for each of them, she leaned forward to lay a gentle hand on his arm. “Is your poem cycle done yet?” The boy shook his head impatiently, fingers tapping at his laptop’s keyboard. She smiled. “Don’t worry. Now that I’m here, it will go so much better.” He blinked, and shivered. She breathed in and smiled again. His typing increased, his face intent on the screen.

Carey flipped the cover down on her iPad, rewound its power cable as well as the one for her phone, and stored them in their specially padded—okay, armored—case. The Apple people had been incredibly nice about that last bullet incident, but she could just hear Marley explaining, again, how their little company couldn’t afford to keep buying her new iPads. Setting the case into the backpack hanging behind her corner chair, Carey leaned both elbows on the table, peering over the brim of her raised coffee cup. Excellent coffee, she decided. Wonder if they roast it themselves?

Finally the two men, the only other customers in the secluded rear room, stood up and left. She took a final look around at the coffee shop’s rear seating area—one door, no windows or other access—and left to talk to the barista in the front room of the coffee shop. Twenty dollars later, Carey taped a handwritten sign—“Rear room reserved for private meeting”—to the outside of the door. Stepping back inside the room, empty now except for the younger couple, she closed the door behind her and stopped in front of the boy.

“Your mother is worried about you, Will.” His automatic sneer came a fraction too late to cover his stunned expression. Before he could speak, she turned to the girl. “It’s time to go, Leigh Ann.”

“The name is Leannán.”

Carey laughed. “Well, Leannán Sí…” She pronounced each Gaelic syllable with exaggerated care, L’ann-AN Shee. “Since you refuse to honor the Accords Agreement, the Council feels it’s time for you to go to Null City. Let’s go. I have a class this afternoon, and I don’t want to be late again.”

The boy started to stand, trying to look tough, but only managing to achieve the ferocity of a puppy protecting his favorite chew toy. “We don’t have to go anywhere with you. Get your stuff, Leigh Ann. We’re outta here.”

“Actually.” Carey’s voice was quiet. “You’re half right.” Her hand shot out and pressed his stomach. “You don’t need to go with me.” His breath whooshed out, and all three looked down at the tiny needle as she pulled her hand back. A moment later, his legs buckled, and Carey guided his falling body back down to his chair. He slumped there, head hanging awkwardly.

Leigh Ann stared from Will to Carey, eyes round. “Is he…?”

“He’s fine.” Carey turned to the girl and pointed to her corner table. “Sit. And don’t even think about talking.”

Carey checked the boy’s pulse and nodded to herself in relief. As a young witch, her friend Claire’s sleep spells wore off pretty quickly because she had to boil down the spelled water to make it take effect so fast. He’d probably just wake up with a hell of a headache. She arranged his head on his arms as if he was taking a quick nap in front of his laptop. In an afterthought, she picked up his fedora from the floor and pulled it onto his head, hiding his face.

Returning to the scowling girl at her table, she took a small book of forms from her backpack and started filling out the top page.

“You can’t just—” Leigh Ann sputtered.

Without looking up Carey showed her the hand. “What did I tell you not to do?” The girl fidgeted for another minute as Carey frowned at the form in front of her. Finally she looked up. “How old are you again?”

“Nineteen. And I don’t…”

Carey shook a warning finger without looking up. “I hate these Accords forms. You have to make sure you fill in every last blank or those badgers in accounting will hold up your check.” She made a final note, put the notebook away, and pulled out her phone to check the time. “They should be here by now. Must be that damn bridge traffic.”

“Who?”

Carey jerked her head toward the next table. “Sleeping Beauty’s parents. I’ve found it best to collect my fee on the spot. People’s memories tend to…fade…otherwise.”

“Wait.” Leigh Ann sounded indignant. “You were hired to find Will?”

“Nah, he was just a bonus. One of his friends told the Agency that he’d disappeared with a Leannán Sí. I used him to find you because I have an authorized ARC warrant for you.”

“ARC?”

“Accords Recovery and Capture.” When the girl still looked confused, Carey sighed. “Amateurs. I’m an Accords Warden licensed for paranormal recoveries, and I’m serving an ARC warrant in your name. That reminds me.” She rooted through the pocket of her backpack for the laminated card and set her phone camera to video. Centering the camera view screen on Leigh Ann’s face, she pushed record, and began to read the card. “By the authority of Accords Agency warrant number 110309A57, I charge you, Leigh Ann—” Pausing, she looked over to the form she’d filled out before returning to the card. “—Leigh Ann Shay, a practicing Leannán Sí, to accompany me to the Council Headquarters. If you request a hearing, you are entitled to representation. Otherwise, you are sentenced to five years of Null City residency without an amnesty day. This recovery and your rights are specified in Amendment 3, sections 7-18 of the Accords Agreement of 1998. The current time is 15:57 on March 7, 2011. Carey Parker, Accords Adjunct Warden License 07823 class 3, submitting authorized Accords Recovery and Capture statement.” She turned off the camera and played back the recording. Satisfied, she uploaded it to Agency servers, put her phone and the card back into her backpack, and faced the girl.

Leigh Ann looked uncertain. “Null City?”

Carey looked at her curiously. “You don’t know about the City?”

“Yeah, and I know about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny too. Come on. You really believe there’s a city you get to on a magic train, and after a day there you become a normal human?”

“Since my family founded it, yeah. I kinda do believe it.” She leaned back in her chair to consider the teenager in front of her. “You could have killed that boy, Leigh Ann. What could be worth his death?”

The girl widened soft blue eyes at her. “I’m a Leannán Sí. He’s a writer, and I would have given him an intense, brilliantly inspired life of creating masterpieces. So what if it would have been a short one? It’s got to be better to go as a blazing star than stay as a…” Her voice trailed off as a snore filtered from beneath the fedora.

“Did you give him a choice? Did you say to him, ‘Will, I’ll be your muse and give you lots of coffee-shop kissing although the actual sex won’t be that great, and there’s the whole die young thing… But you won’t mind because it will all be for your Art’?”

Leigh Ann frowned. “The sex wouldn’t have been that bad.”

Carey snorted. “And actually, that masterpiece he was producing?” She reached over to snag Will’s computer and pulled it around to face Leigh Ann. “First thing I did was put a keystroke tracker onto his laptop. And believe me, reading that drivel was almost as bad as my humanities essay. He copied most of it from last month’s Poetry!Slam online. Here’s what he was actually writing.” She selected Recent Documents on the laptop and opened the top file listed.

The younger girl’s eyes widened. “Fanfiction?” She peered at the screen and looked like she might be sick. “One Direction fanfiction?”

“Nothing wrong with fanfiction.” Carey raised an eyebrow. “We’ve all done it. But Will’s was…” She shuddered. “Really, really bad.” She looked curiously at the younger girl and waved at the snoring boy. “Why did you do it?”

Leigh Ann looked down at her clasped hands. “My parents were killed just before the war ended. When Haven and Gifts signed the Accords in 1995, I was sent to live with my father’s cousins. They had a little apple orchard up on the Olympic Peninsula, and there wasn’t much money. Everyone had to work pretty hard all the time, just to get food to eat and a few clothes. But I knew there was something different inside me. Something that would inspire beauty and genius and glorious creativity.”

Carey stared at her. “Well, that’s an entire pickup truck full of prime-quality manure.”

“Was it the farm?” Leigh Ann frowned. “The orphan bit?

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In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American. ]