Is it seriously August?Where has this summer gone? A lot of cool things are happening in my neck of the woods. My first contemporary novelette, The Roles We Play, is out in ebook. Divine Judgment, the third Divine Chronicles book, is with the editor. I'm polishing up Break Her Fall, the second Blake Pride book. And somewhere between all this writing I've had the privilege of attending a few conferences like RT in New Orleans and RWA Nationals in San Antonio. Yes, I've been a busy lil writer chick.
Monthly Contest:I've teamed up with FreshFiction.com to bring you more information and monthly contests to win free books and goodies. For August the contest is Dig Your Claws Into Summer. You can win a signed copy of Pride Before the Fall and an Amazon gift card. Make sure you sign up for their newsletter too!
I'm so excited to share this with you!!! Here is the first (unedited) chapter of Divine Judgment, set for release next month.
**Please do not copy and paste this excerpt. If you would like to share, use the link to this blog post.
“Crap, crap, crap! Damn it to hell.” Avery slapped at her skin, shook herself off like a dog sheds water. “Fire? Really. You have to transport me with fire?” She glared up at Rhea who stood patiently waiting. Avery coughed and hacked trying to get the heat out of her throat. It took her a moment to realize she wasn’t on fire and she wasn’t having trouble breathing.
“Fire is a part of who you are, beloved. It is not my fault that you have not embraced it.”
“It flippin’ hurts!”
“Your irreverence is disturbing.” Rhea sighed.
Avery’s brows rose. She paced toward the goddess and crossed her arms over her chest. “Irreverence? You set me on fire. Twice. You created me and stuck me on earth, gave my father a vision that caused him to take me into the human world, and now, after I’ve finally found Ryse and fallen in love with him, and figured out who I really am; I’m dead. Now I’m pulled every which way but right, in and out of my own dang body. Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah. You set me on fire.”
“Twice.” Rhea finished for her, her lips twitching. “I do enjoy your spirit. Worry not, I shall return you to your mate in due time.” She gathered Avery into her arms and offered comfort.
Avery shivered once more, the memory of the flames still freaked her out. It was only after her tantrum that she comprehended where she was and took a glance around. “So, this is Heaven, huh?”
There was…nothing. Rhea and Avery were surrounded by an endless sea of nothing. She figured Heaven would be like what she saw in the movies; white lights, lots of gold and silver, shiny crap. Instead, she stood in a void. There was no white light but no darkness either. If she squinted she could make out color, but not really.
“Would you prefer the afterlife to look like this?” Rhea waved her hand and a golden street appeared under her feet leading to a city clad in gold and jewels. There were vivid colors, great temples floating on clouds…and every cliché the human race had ever depicted as “heaven”.
“This isn’t it either, is it?” Avery sighed.
“Maybe you would prefer this?” The scene changed and Avery’s heart nearly broke in half.
It was her childhood home in Texas. The farmhouse with a wraparound porch sat pristine in the middle of hay pastures. Smoke even rose from the chimney. A faint scent of Mama’s fresh baked bread wafted past her nose.
Before she could stop herself, tears rolled down her cheeks and she turned to Rhea. “I had no idea the gods of my husband would be so cruel.” Her anger lashed out like a whip at the goddess.
“It is accurate, is it not? This is the place you felt most at home, the most at peace.”
With a defiant swipe, Avery cleared her cheeks of moisture. “Yeah. But you know darn well that place is gone and so are the people in it. So why don’t you quit with the picture games.”
“As you wish.” Rhea’s arm cut through the air and her childhood home was gone. In a blink they stood high on a grassy hill so perfectly green each blade looked hand painted. Their feet rested on the cool white marble of a grand temple.
Avery arched her neck to peer up and up and higher still to the ceiling, elegantly decorated with frescos of the gods. “I’ve seen this place.”
“It is the city of Olympia in the realm of the gods. When we left the earth, we recreated our cities and temples together here.”
“Cities?” Avery questioned.
“Athens, Delphi, Olympia; just as they would have been on earth.”
Rows of stone buildings with round pillars and intricate carvings of the gods they hosted dotted the valley below. The temple of Zeus was the most prominent. Circular pillars lined the exterior, white limestone stacked as high and mighty as the god it paid homage to.
“Will my parents be here? In one of these cities?” Hope lit in her heart at the thought she might be reunited with her family again.
“Your mother was human and I’m afraid upon death, her soul went to another place that I have no access to. Your father, however, anxiously awaits to greet you.” Rhea held out her arm and pointed to a figure emerging out of the valley below.
“Daddy!” Avery took off running, her feet moving as fast as possible toward the open arms of her father. She jumped and he caught her with a strong grip. He was just as she remembered. Tall, brown hair, heavy build with the warmest hugs in the world.
“Avery, my precious girl, how I’ve missed you.” He kissed her cheek over and over again as they both wept. “I’m so proud of you, baby.” Loving words fell from his lips over and over again as if he were making up for a decade of not sharing his love with her every day. “I love you so much. I’m so proud of you.”
“Daddy, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry about everything. About Jerry and mama, and everything.”
He held her face in his hands. Green eyes, just like hers, were filled with tears and emotion so deep it stirred her soul. “Don’t be sorry about your mother, baby. I knew when we were mated that her humanity would be a part of the deal. She was worth every sacrifice. She gave me you.” He kissed her forehead again. “No father has ever been as proud of his daughter as I am of you.”
Rhea approached, a kind smile on her face. “I owe your parents a great deal, Avery. I wish I could bring them together again, but that is far beyond my control. I can only offer you the knowledge that your mother is in a similar place, her soul is at peace.”
“Thank you, goddess.” Her father bowed to Rhea. “Thank you for bringing me my child and for keeping her from a true death.”
“I have things I must attend to. Your time here is short, Avery. Enjoy this gift. For when I return, you will face your fire and your killer.”
Avery took her father’s hand and they meandered down the paths of the Heavens. Question after question, topic after topic, father and daughter caught up on as much as possible. When she spoke of Ryse and how much she loved him, her father grinned. But there was a sadness in his eyes.
“You are in for a very hard life with him, Avery. He will not be an easy man to love.”
“No, Daddy. He’s a very easy man to love. What’s hard is makin’ him see that.”
“If anyone can do it, if anyone can love him enough, it’s you.” Her father sighed and she knew their time was nearly up. “You’ve become so much greater a woman than I ever imagined, Avery. For so long I feared what would happen to you without your mother and me there to guide you.” His face softened, his green eyes shined. “But you're so strong, so determined. Maybe a little quick on the trigger when it comes to attacking people.” He chuckled. “You should be more careful about that.”
“Trust me, I will. Dang. Dyin’ hurts.” She joked, but rubbed at her chest, still able to recall how the knife punctured her chest over and over again.
Her father put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “As much as I love you, my sweet girl, I don’t want to see you again for many, many centuries. Not until you and your mate rest in the Heavens together.”
“I promise, Daddy. I’ll be more careful. But I also made promises to Ryse, and I won’t stand by and let him fight his demons alone.”
“That’s my girl. I love you, more than you can fathom.” He pulled her in for a hug and Avery tried to memorize everything about him. She wouldn’t get a chance like this again and she didn’t take it for granted.
The Heavens- Holy City of Delphi
Lysandra entered the main temple of Delphi. The ancient city had once been on earth but now it was a place of solitude for the gods only. The tray she carried held oils and herbs for the Pythia, the triad of Oracles who oversaw the temple. She delivered the supplies and knelt down to receive her next order. The three women were naked and chanting. They sat in a shallow pool of water that smelled of the sweet oils. No males were allowed into the sanctuary and no one except temple priestesses was given entrance to this room. Their lack of clothing aided in their focus. There was no reason to hide their bodies. The nudity didn’t bother Lysandra, she was used to it. When she came into the sanctuary she too had to be unclad. It didn’t take her long to realize clothing was a waste of time in the temple. No one saw her but the Pythia. When she did venture beyond the temple she felt heavy with all the robes and drapes.
“Lysandra.” Called one of her mistresses. “I see you.”
She gasped as the Oracle trained her white glowing eyes on her face. “Me? Why would you have a vision of me?”
“Come.” The Oracle held out a hand so pale she was nearly translucent.
Priestesses in training were not supposed to step foot in the pool. Lysandra’s heart pounded in her chest as she touched the Oracle’s hand and stepped into the warm water. As she lowered her body a vision came over her. She was accustomed to visions, had them all the time. This experience was different.
She saw a woman with long reddish brown hair. The mass of curls spread out on a pillow, her hands folded over her chest. Was the woman dead? No. Not dead, not living either. Time began to slip backwards and she saw the men who placed the woman in the bed with such care. The scenes rewound all the way back to the moment this woman was murdered. She saw it all. Her death, her lover, her true identity. Lysandra screamed as the vision ended in painful clarity. Avery, mate of Thracian Master and Olympian Prince Ryse Castille was in the spirit realm while her body lay in the Haven on Earth.
“Did you see it?” It wasn’t an Oracle who asked the question, but the mother-goddess, Rhea. The Oracles crawled to her robes and touched them in reverence. Lysandra knelt down, her face nearly in the pool.
“They need you, Lysandra. I am sending you to the Haven in the earthly plain.”
“Mistress?” Lysandra was appalled. “You don’t mean among the humans?”
Rhea stroked the heads of the Oracles that fawned over her. The urge to join them was strong, but the possibility of having to go to Earth caused her great distress.
“Yes. ‘Tis your destiny. You will learn much and be of great service to the gods. Go meditate and receive the knowledge that I bring. Your time will come soon.”
“Is this—” She breathed deeply, closed her eyes against the pain of the cold truth. “Is this because I am…damaged?”
The Pythia swiveled their heads to her, they stared with unblinking, lifeless eyes that knew too much. Everyone at the temple sensed it. She’d never fit in, never been fully one of them. That’s why she’d never ascended to the Pythia, why she remained a temple priestess.
“Damaged?” Rhea questioned. “You are not damaged, Lysandra. You are simply too full of color to live in this white realm. You shall find yourself, and all the colors of the human world shall mix beautifully together with your soul.”
Lysandra made her way to her sleeping chambers and sat on her mattress. She was leaving the Heavens and going to the earth…among other Olympians…and if her vision was accurate, she would be meeting the warrior with sandy blonde hair and unique eyes of the same color, the one that went unconscious when he touched Master Ryse. This magnificent warrior had her heart racing the most.
The Heavens- City of Olympia
Avery’s heart broke as she walked away from her father, once again following Rhea. At the same time, she was full of love and peace. Finally, she was able to say goodbye to her father in a way she could be happy with. Rhea had given her priceless closure.
“Avery.” The goddess pulled at her arm to bring Avery beside her. “Meet Helios, the god of fire.”
Avery’s body went cold. Helios was a walking fireball. We’re talking straight out of a comic book, a man on fire. Even his smile seemed to glow orange and red.
“Ah, my new student.” His words crackled like burning logs, more of a sound than an actual enunciation of syllables.
“I shall leave you to your lessons.” Rhea inclined her head to Helios and he bowed deeply in return. Then Rhea was gone, and the god of fire’s attention was solely on her. “Are you ready to learn your craft?”
“Yeah, ‘bout that.” Avery bit her bottom lip. “Not so much.”
“Call upon your fire,” he commanded, accustomed to being obeyed.
“What? No.” Avery shook her head. “That flamin’ crap is scary and bad things happen. It’s not like it did me much good against Salina. I mean, no offense. It clearly works for you.”
“You have not mastered the art.” Helios held up his hand when Avery opened her mouth to argue. “Silence. You will learn. You will not argue. What emotions were you feeling the first time your gift manifested?”
Dear gods, she was really going to have to do this.
“Rage.” Avery bowed her head, thoughts of Frank’s bleeding body haunting her mind. “Sorrow.”
“That is where we shall begin.” Helios waved his hand and the world twisted. Olympia was gone and Avery stood in her childhood home again, just in time to watch Jerry stab Frank. Bile rose in her throat and her body shook. As she had been that horrific night, she was tied to a chair in her living room. Jerry, who had once been considered a close friend, slammed a knife into the chest of his partner, Officer Frank Billings. His laughter made her wretch. In her head, she knew this was only a memory. She survived this night and moved on with her life. Her heart, on the other hand, felt the pain anew.
“No. Don’t make me relive this. Please,” she begged the god beside her, sobbing as Frank’s blood coated her bare feet once again.
“Control your fire, Avery.” Helios pointed a flaming finger at her body.
Fire? She held up her hands and sure enough, flames danced over her skin exactly like Helios’s did. Her entire body was consumed. The nightmare became real and kerosene flooded her veins.