Life, Reviews and Blood-Mage Rising Excerpt

Hi, everyone! It’s been a bit since I just did an update on, well, just stuff in general, so I thought I’d do it here and now!

Finally crested the 10k views mark this past weekend, woot! Definitely been an upsurge in interest the last few months, and for that I greatly appreciate everyone!

My twins turned 1 last Thursday and we did the cake thing this weekend. I just can’t not share a couple of these pictures.

You can guess which is the “before” and which is the “after” pictures. I put the whole “Twins Meet Cake, Cake Meets Doom” series up on my facebook page. Friend me and check it out if you’re interested!

I’ve been blessed with some absolutely FABULOUS reviews.

The TBR Pile – 5 Star/4 Fuzzy Handcuffs 
You Gotta Read – 4 Stars
It’s kinda cool and fun finding these awesome reviews out there. Now, pssst, go tell your friends! 
Now for the rest of my post, I wanted to offer up the final half of Chapter One from Blood-Mage Rising for your reading pleasure. Part One is here.  Hope you enjoy Part Two, and I look forward to its release in just over two weeks now! ::happy dance::

By the time Chris pulled into the quiet community she lived in, she didn’t have a headache any more. The soothing sounds of opera singer Robert Kinsale, the only musician she truly loved, worked their usual magic on her.
Thanks to the airport detour, it was late, but not deadly late yet for someone halfway through their third century. The windows in her truck were tinted to the fullest extent legal for a member of the Blood, but she hadn’t gotten around to treating them like the windows at the airport. Too high a price tag.
She pulled into the driveway of her townhouses. Back when the developers built the community, she had bought adjoining units and knocked out some of the connecting walls to get more space. One of these days, she intended to clean out the garages so she could park inside, rather than have to brave the daylight when she got in late like this.
Taking a deep breath, she bolted for the front door, making a last-second detour to her mailbox. She’d been gone for several days. The trip only took fifteen seconds, but her skin turned red before she got the key turned and scooted inside. The tinting gave her some protection when inside the truck, but she’d really pushed her tolerances. She’d never come so close to her limits that she felt the needle-like pinpricks warning of imminent combustion.
Only after closing the door did she remember her laptop, still tucked under the passenger seat of her truck.
“Well damn.”
Chris tossed her keys into the geode that doubled as a key bowl in the niche by the front door and turned to face the door that blocked her nemesis: the sunlight. Did she really need the computer before evening?
Unfortunately she did. All the pictures of the murders were on it directly, rather than stored in the cloud. The matter was too sensitive to risk a chance hacking.
Still trying to decide while she waited for her skin to fade to its normal pale peach instead of lobster red, she flipped through the stack of mail. The lot consisted of bills, including a reminder from the Florida Bar to renew her registration and the ever-present “Attend our conference and get your CLE requirements filled” ads.
Stupid junk mail.
The emblem of the Bureau of Non-Human Affairs on the last envelope furrowed her brow into a scowl. What do they want? She paid her fees to gain access to the blood banks, and the Bureau should know better by now than to bug her about serving as a Council Rep. She ought to get something out of being involved in the foundation of the quasi-public entity.
A whisper of sound caught her attention as she started to slit open the envelope. Her internal alarm went off. She paused, tilted her head to the side, listening. The expected noises filtered in. A fan ticked in her den; the a/c forced air through the ducts; and water flowed into the icemaker. All soft, all normal, but the alarm continued to jangle.
Chris dropped the mail into the niche next to the geode and slid her right hand down to grab hold of the hilt of her silver and mahogany knife from her boot. She left its twin, mahogany and titanium, in the other holster untouched. The familiar hilt felt good in her grip, but she didn’t pull the weapon. It was probably just nerves left over from Xanthea’s odd visit.
That might be the case, but she didn’t go back to her truck to retrieve her computer or continue opening mail. Instead, Chris bounced on the balls of her feet, thinking. She extended her senses to sweep the townhouse for any sign of intruders. Mage-born she could find. Most vampires and all dhampires would show up on such a sweep as well. Only vampires older than she, deliberately concealing their presence, and shifters could hide from her. Nothing pinged.
The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Something felt off, and she hadn’t survived this long by ignoring her instincts. Whoever the intruder was, they knew she was there. Trying to hide her movements was pointless.
She edged down the hall, still feeling out the surrounding with her thoughts. The intruder might make a mistake, and she’d catch them. Nothing looked out of place in the kitchen. Rich cherry floors echoed softly at her tread as she left and headed for the den through the swinging door.
At first glance, nothing looked wrong. The plasma screen mounted on the wall, dark brown overstuffed sectional with its plumped cushions, and her stereo system all looked normal. That’s when she noticed the glistening silver ice bucket on the sideboard. A bottle of wine, a twenty year-old bottle of Riesling she’d paid almost a grand for, poked out of the top, and she saw ice filling it about three-quarters of the way.
“Son of a were-bitch.” She stalked over to the bucket to study the half-empty bottle without letting her guard down. Only a few of her friends drank white wine, and they wouldn’t hunt down the good stuff. None of her close friends could hide from her either, since she was the oldest member of the Blood residing in the state.
“I know you’re here. Might as well show yourself now.” No point wasting her time on a phone call to the police. Ditto for the Bureau. They’d be useless against her intruder. “Did it have to be the Riesling?”
Phantom laughter touched her thoughts, and her stomach plummeted. Chris gritted her teeth. He wasn’t supposed to have shown up so soon. His arrival made a perfect end to the crappy night and morning.
“I’m not playing games, damn it.” She plastered her back against the wall. Standard battle tactic for an experienced member of the Blood, the intruder remained in his mist form. Against the wall this way, he couldn’t pop in and stick a stake in her from behind. She knew the trick, used it frequently when she needed a quick kill shot.
“I like games. This is fun. Can you find me before I pounce? Maybe I came to kill you this time.” Jordan MacNaught’s voice, a mix of English and Scottish, sounded like nails down a chalkboard to her. Cold sweat trickled down the side of her face with the high-pitched giggle that jangled in her head.
He wanted to incite fear with that laugh, and it worked. Her heart slammed against her rib cage, but she managed to breathe normally. God, she hated the giggle; it brought back memories of the first time she’d heard the hideous noise, the night he buried her.
Show no fear.
Jordan fed off fear; it turned him on. She survived knowing him, intact save for the incident, because she didn’t give in to fear no matter what he did.
He can’t kill me without serious consequences, she reminded herself firmly. “I talked with Stuffy Britches. They think you’re involved with the murders. Killing me isn’t going to help you convince him otherwise.”
She wasn’t above lying. Her visitor wasn’t a suspect, at least not for the powers-that-be, namely Anthony. And while Jordan’s old modus operandi matched the current victims, she agreed with Xanthea’s assessment that the plot was too wide-spread.
“It would be fun.” He pouted like a child denied sweets because she wouldn’t play his game.
She shrugged and assumed a casual pose, crossing one leg over the other. Her gaze flitted over the room, looking for any sign of his misty form. The only thing she picked up was the dark suit coat draped nonchalantly over the back of the widest piece of the sectional. “A few minutes or hours of torture. Sure, that might be fun for you. But if you kill me, I’d be gone, and you seem to like popping in from time to time.”
Most of the time, the approach worked. One day it wouldn’t, and then she’d die.
No answer, not even a giggle. Chris thudded her head against the wall behind her. “You can’t hide forever. Even Xan can only hide for twenty-nine minutes that way, and she’s a lot older than you.”
Sharp pain swiped at her neck, fang-like. She put her hand to her throat to reassure herself the bite wasn’t real. No blood. Just a phantom touch. She would love to use telekinesis, but it was too risky. Those her age rarely had the strength to do it, and she didn’t need any avoidable attention focused on her.
Teeth scraped down the side of her throat at the same moment ghostly fingers caressed her thigh, sending a shiver of a different sort zipping merrily through her. Damned dirty trick. Time to end this.
“Why are you here?”
God help her, she had to draw him out. He wanted to play. Until she went along, they couldn’t get down to business.
“It’s been nine years, six months, and fourteen days, Chrissy. Why do you thinkI’m here?”
She shuddered, drawing in a shaky breath. Like him, she knew to the day how long it had been since their paths last crossed. Tides and taxes were no more reliable than their need, the hunger, for one another. They’d definitely lengthened the time between their encounters in the past forty years, but she hadn’t been able to totally steer clear of the man. Chris hated needing him, even as she craved his touch. But now was not the time. She moved away from the wall and let her guard down. Just enough.
Prepared to take the first blow, she still saw stars when blunt force slammed the back of her head. She staggered, caught herself before she fell, and spun around with her second weapon drawn now. No sign of Jordan.
Chris snarled. “I’m not afraid of you. Stop playing, and let’s get down to the real reason you’re here. I know it’s not just to annoy me.”
“Play the game first. You know the rules: no weapons, and we play until one of us wins. Only then will we deal with why I’m here.”
Life would be so much easier if he’d just die already. Or kill her. The universe “gifted” her with an attraction to a sociopath, thanks to weakness in her youth. Jordan thought fights that might turn deadly with the first spilled blood “fun”, and to make matters worse, he appeared to consider her a friend, or at the very least like a puppy in need of training. Ugh.
The sooner she finished playing the scuffle out, the sooner they got down to business, and then she could get on with what she needed to do. She edged to the sideboard, and slowly set her knives down on top, though didn’t release her grip on the hilts. She wanted the rules established first.
“Normal forfeit?”
“Unless you care to make it really interesting and offer me your blood.”
She needed to avoid that at all costs. He was far too old and would recognize irregularities in her taste. The forfeit sucked, especially with Anthony so close, up in Tampa. The last thing she needed was to get caught stepping out with Jordan. “You might lose.”
Swallowing hard, she made herself release both knives and step away. No reason she had to fight to her best ability. Her competitive nature demanded victory, but the realist in her pointed out the slim chance of that. Better to let him win so they moved on. “Let’s go. Show yourself, you piece of crap.”
 The air in front of her swirled; mist heretofore unseen coalesced, and just like that, there he stood. Just a smidge taller than she, swimmer’s lean physique wrapped in a three-piece navy suit sans jacket, topped with an angel’s too-pretty face, the Bloody Baron smiled pleasantly, thumbs hooked in his vest pockets. Blond hair, impeccably combed into place, brushed his forehead just above brilliant green eyes that could alternate between passion and ice in less than a blink. He smiled, showing his fangs. “Always a pleasure to see you, too, Chrissy.” 

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