Authors: Joshua Roots
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Urban, #Paranormal
By Joshua Roots
If there’s one thing Warlock Marcus Shifter hates it’s the Delwinn Council, the governing body of the magical community. Between the grudges many on the Council harbor because he walked away from magic, and his suspicions that someone is working to undermine a twenty-year peace with the non-magical Normals, they really don’t get along.
Marcus has spent months hunting the traitor, infiltrating the Council and helping with “menial tasks” like repairing unstable rifts in the fabric of reality. But when he accidentally thwarts an assassination attempt at Delwinn HQ, the Council does the unthinkable: they appoint him the poster child for the peace movement.
Now Marcus has to not only figure out how to control his resurging powers but also navigate the potentially fatal waters of fame. Between the growing number of protestors, news-hungry paparazzi, and nightmarish beasts hounding his every move, he’ll need more than a camera-ready smile to uncover the traitor and keep the peace.
When I looked at what month I was writing this letter for, the song “Kokomo” immediately popped into my head. And now, though it’s still a little cold and blustery outside my windows, in my mind, we’re all sunning ourselves on the beaches of some tropical island, reading something incredible. Since you’ll be reading this letter in July, it’s entirely possible you will be on a beach somewhere, so let me help you with the incredible reads part…
Looking for something to add even more steam to your hot summer nights? Check out
by Jeffe Kennedy, the first in her contemporary erotic romance trilogy. She’s a genius computer game designer who changed her identity to escape online trolls. He’s the crack undercover reporter who’s tracking an elusive and enigmatic hacker—her. They’re a combustible combination both in and out of bed.
Jeffe isn’t the only author with a new beginning this month. We’re pleased to welcome debut author Caroline Kimberly to Carina Press with her unique historical romance trilogy. Set in the wilds of British India, and pitched as
Romancing the Stone
meets Regency, she’s no demure young miss and he’s no proper soldier. And what they experience is more than
An Inconvenient Kiss.
If you’ve been longing for something different in the historical romance genre, don’t miss this one!
Ann DeFee and Inez Kelley join us in the contemporary romance genre with their respective books,
A Hot Time in Texas
Should’ve Been Home Yesterday.
This wraps up Inez’s Country Roads trilogy, so be sure to pick up the first two books if you haven’t already!
Problems in Paradise
by Kelsey Browning is also in our contemporary lineup this month.
A small-town Texas café owner wants to bury her sordid Los Angeles past and become a part of the community, but the sexy chief deputy must uncover her secrets even if it destroys his campaign for sheriff and their chances for love.
Fans of Julie Moffett’s Lexi Carmichael series are going to fall in love all over again with
No Biz Like Showbiz,
in which o
ur favorite geek girl is off to Hollywood to bring down a hacker who’s manipulating the online voting for one of America’s favorite reality television dating shows.
This is a series with something for everyone: geek references, a new adult feel, mystery themes and enough romance elements to keep any romance reader happy. If you haven’t started the series yet, you can start here or pick up
No One Lives Twice
at any etailer.
Shirley Wells also has a mystery release for fans of detective novels, and is back with
Dead End, A Dylan Scott Mystery.
Two fantastic authors bring us two incredible urban fantasy novels this month. In Steve Vera’s
the enemies of two worlds reluctantly join forces to fight the armies of the Underworld. And in
by Joshua Roots, if there’s one thing Warlock Marcus Shifter hates it’s the Delwinn Council. They’re not pleased that he once turned his back on his kind, and he’s convinced someone on the Council is working to undermine the twenty-year peace with the non-magical Normals.
John Tristan also shares a journey in the world of fantasy with
The Sheltered City.
In a land devastated by dragonfire, a man with a curse in his blood must help an elf find his missing brother in this male/male fantasy romance.
And to round out the diverse selection of novels we have for your beach-reading pleasure, in A.M. Arthur’s
Maybe This Time,
when serial singleton Ezra Kelley meets his match in sexy bartender Donner Davis, both men will need to let go of past hurts before they can have a future together.
Of course, if you’re spending a lot of time on the beach and need more, don’t forget to go diving into our backlist, which offers a variety of page-turning books in all genres of romance, mystery and science fiction from authors like Lauren Dane, Josh Lanyon, Marie Force and more.
Coming in August 2014: Shannon Stacey is back with the final (for now) installment in the Kowalski series, we welcome Lisa Marie Rice and her cracktastic contemporary romantic suspense to Carina Press, and I’m off to Mexico for my own lie-in on the beach!
Here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.
Editorial Director, Carina Press
To Amy, who tolerates me.
Thank you for making every day an adventure.
Also, to my Grandmamma, Christine Garratt. You walked this earth for ninety-eight years, living every moment to its fullest. You inspired four generations and your legacy will inspire many more to come. I will miss our Tuesday night talks.
A book doesn’t write itself. It takes a team of supporters (and a few glasses of wine) to help an author shape an idea into ninety-some-odd-thousand words. As such, this story wouldn’t have seen the light of day without the following people:
Mallory Braus, my amazing editor, who puts up with my repetition, clichés, tropes, run-ons, poor grammar, repetition, bad punctuation, desperate “I have another great idea!” phone calls and repetition. You are the epitome of patience and professionalism. It’s been a joy to work with you.
Eric Ruben, my fantastic agent. Thank you for taking a chance on a nobody, for answering my extremely long e-mails, and for always being a straight shooter with me. The waters of publishing may be scary and uncertain at times, but they’re less so with a man like you navigating.
A gigantic thank you to my two favorite girls: Regan Summers and Tiffany Allee. Both ladies read this story in its raw, unpasteurized form and provided critical insight on how to un-suck it. They are amazing authors and, if you haven’t read them yet, I highly encourage you to add them to your To Be Loved pile.
Thank you to Fatihah, who helped me figure out the appropriate terminology for titles of the Mosaic Group.
To my Dragon Brother, Scipio Garling, thanks for always listening patiently whenever I write myself into a corner, for our long debates about comics, and for making the workdays more interesting. But most important, thank you for being the kind of family we choose rather than the kind we’re born into.
Once again, to my fellow nutcases in the Absolute Write Sci-Fi/Fantasy Cantina, thank you for offering a crazy, unpredictable place to rest my soul. You guys make the sometimes-lonely job of writing feel like an always-vacation. Never stop the insanity.
Lastly, to Suzanne Brockmann, my mentor and friend. Thank you for offering your guidance, support and love as I’ve climbed the enormous hill of writing. Without you, I’d still be some guy with nothing more than a lot of stories in my head.
Reality’s Welcome Mat
When I first signed the dotted line to become a Combat Warlock, it was under the assumption that I would spend my days blasting paranormal creepy crawlies and my nights basking in the warm glow of good scotch and bad girls.
Boy, was I wrong.
“This sucks,” the thick Mage next to me grumbled, sweat dripping from her brow.
Staring at the shimmering oval that seemed to hang in the air in front of us, I had to agree. It was small, nothing more than a hazy, wavering image similar to heat rising from asphalt in the summer. Despite the diminutive size, everyone on the five-person squad gave it a wide berth. The window to an unstable reality, the rift hummed with unnatural energy that felt, rather than sounded, as if it were slightly out of tune with the rest of the world.
That alone was enough to make my hair stand on end, but my uneasiness was ramped to a million because this rift was completely different than anything we’d seen before. Its edges were a soft blue instead of red and it pulsed cool winds, not warm air. Every so often, I could swear I saw something moving on the other side.
It was almost enough to make me miss my old freelancing days.
Arbent, a large, serious man, startled me when he tapped me on the shoulder.
“How’s it going, Marcus?”
I covered the speaker of the phone with my free hand. “Still on hold.”
I shrugged. “The music’s gotten better. They replaced R.E.M with Huey Lewis and the News.”
Arbent cursed and wiped his bald, tattooed head with the cuff of his robe. “It’s been over an hour. It took us less time to get those damn cows into their pens. What’s taking the Council so long?”
Mick, our Healer, grinned. “Maybe their soaps are on.”
Built like a sparkplug with huge forearms and squat legs, Mick had an easygoing personality that made working with him a joy. It was especially pleasant since he served double-duty as both a combatant and medic. Having learned from previous disasters, the Delwinn Council now assigned a full-time Healer to each rift-team for when things inevitably went south.
Mick waited for a response, but a blank stare from our leader was all he got. Normally Arbent didn’t mind Mick’s sense of humor, but between the unusual, stifling humidity of late September and being forced to wait for a response from the Council, he was all business. The Healer’s smile faded and he cleared his throat.
“Uh, how’s the farmer handling all this?”
“Considering three of his cows were turned to mush by this thing—” Arbent nodded at the rift, “—about as well as can be expected.”
Our newest member, a kid named Alistair Monroe, who still carried that New Warlock Smell, chuckled. “Normals. Such weak stomachs when it comes to Skilled matters.”
Helga, the sweaty Mage, glowered. “He’s not weak, he’s pissed. I would be too if some of my cattle had been vaporized by an unknown force.”
“Let’s just be thankful it wasn’t a person this time,” Arbent interjected. The youngster shrugged and mouthed the word
, but thankfully shut up.
The rift was located in a large farmer’s field in Maryland next to an old family cemetery. The owner, a non-magical “Normal,” found his herd surrounding the thing, mooing their heads off. When one of them tried to cross through the rift, and was subsequently reduced to ground beef upon contact, he’d called the Skilled hotline. We arrived thirty minutes later to the sight of two more mounds of cooked cattle.
Despite the obvious danger of the rift, the cows were completely mesmerized by it. We’d struggled to drag the surviving bovine, one-by-one, back to their pens. Once they were safely locked away, we’d set up a perimeter around the phenomenon, took readings of its power levels, and called our point of contact back at Headquarters.
And were promptly placed on hold.
The last fact put me on edge.
Seven months ago, I was moderately happy working as a freelance operative, knocking down things that went bump in the night. Sure, the jobs were spotty and paid mediocre, but I loved being my own boss. Then a group of fanatics attacked my family with a weapon that tore open the fabric of reality. Dumb luck helped me close the windows, but a lot of the fractures were unstable and began to reopen. Since I had the most “exposure” to the weapon that caused them, the Delwinn Council pulled me in to advise the rift repair teams. Within a few weeks, enough people had been hurt or killed that I found myself on the front lines.
In the months since, this merry band of lovable misfits and I had dealt with plenty of these bizarre singularities. Every time, our Council representative gave us the order to shut them down to prevent any unnatural being from entering our plane of existence. And I was happy to oblige because I knew firsthand how much death just one of those things could cause.
So why the delay?
“This is so
,” Alistair griped, brushing his carefully pampered blond hair out of his eyes. “We should be hammering that thing closed, not begging for permission to do our job.”
“Says someone too pretty for combat,” I muttered under my breath.
“This isn’t a debate.” Arbent was visibly struggling to maintain his composure. In addition to being the on-site commander of our little team of misfits, he was one of the few veterans of previous rift closures that wasn’t in the hospital or in the ground. As such, his word was generally accepted as Gospel in the field.
Apparently the newcomer hadn’t gotten the memo.
“I’m sure my
would disagree with you.”
The muscles of Arbent’s jaw tightened.
Alistair represented everything wrong with the latest batch of Warlocks. Brash, entitled and inexperienced, he exuded an aura of cockiness that he damn sure hadn’t earned. It was one thing to lack a sense of your own mortality when you’re young, but quite another to butt heads with a veteran like Arbent on your first mission.
What really concerned me, however, were the rumors that he lacked the Skill required for the dangerous career path of a Warlock.
Word had filtered down to the team that Alistair had struggled in basic training, barely passing his final exams. Yet here he was, strutting around as if he owned the joint instead of sitting safely behind a desk where he belonged.
Oh sure, the Wizarding profession didn’t sound as sexy as being on the front lines with Combat Warlocks and Mages, but the men and women who dedicated their lives to studying the science of our powers were critical to the Council. Without them, blunt instruments like me wouldn’t have new spells to work with. By giving the weaker-Skilled folks a place in our community, the Council ensured that everyone was able to contribute to the greater good.
More important, it meant that the folks who couldn’t cut it wouldn’t get themselves—or worse, others—killed.
Alistair, however, had weapons-grade connections in the form of his father. One phone call from Councilman Monroe and the kid was on our rift repair team. He’d been wearing on our nerves ever since.
tell me something has changed,” Arbent said, turning his attention back to me.
I pulled the phone away from my ear and held it out to him. A Muzak bastardization of The Boss piped through the tiny speaker.
“We better get paid overtime for this,” Helga griped.
Mick smirked. “The privilege of serving the Council in any capacity should be payment enough, young lady.”
For the first time all day, everyone laughed. I was reminded, yet again, how much better being part of a team was to flying solo.
“Warlock Shifter, are you still there?” a woman said in my ear.
Relief flooded my veins. “You bet.”
“Excellent. I’m transferring you to Wizard Pell now.”
Pell, a family friend, was one of the longest-serving non-Elders on the Council. There were cave paintings younger than him, but his mind was still as sharp as it had been a hundred years ago.
“Marcus!” the aged voice boomed. “How are you, my boy?”
“Your generation is soft,” he retorted. “I remember a time when a Warlock’s robes were heavy wool and everyone carried a staff.”
I glanced at my team, noting four sets of robes and staffs. The only exception was the sexiest man alive who kept his Skilled outfits shoved in the back of his closet.
“Give me cargo pants and a Kevlar vest any day,” I quipped.
“Still carrying a hand-cannon?”
I ran my fingers lovingly over the Glock strapped to my thigh. “Yup.”
“Thank goodness. I don’t know why the Skilled turns its nose up at Normal weapons. And before you call me on it, I’m not as averse to modernization as others. I love the good old days, but the truth is our people need to accept that times have changed. We either change with them or we’ll get left behind.”
“Trust me, you’re preaching to the choir.”
Pell chuckled. “Anyway, enough of my mutterings. I’ve reviewed your initial report and sent it up the chain, but I wanted your personal assessment.”
“In a word—bad. Unlike every other rift we’ve encountered, this one isn’t red hot, it’s a cold blue. The energy coming off it is almost tangible and the harmonics are freakishly musical.”
“And you’re sure the readings are accurate?”
Pell whistled. “We haven’t seen a rift this intense yet. The power coming from it is off the charts.”
“It’s getting worse. The levels have almost doubled since I first called. Not to mention, the reality surrounding it is weakening by the minute. We need to seal it.
. Hell, we should have buttoned this damn thing up the second we arrived.”
The old man was silent.
“I’m here.” His tone was different, more tired than before. “Marcus, I’m afraid the Council wants to study this one.”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. “What?”
Arbent, who had been listening to my end of the conversation, gave me a questioning look. I pointed to the phone, then gave a thumbs-down. The edges of his mouth went the same direction.
“The sub-committee is intrigued by the uniqueness of this rift,” Pell said. “They are assembling a research team as we speak. You are to maintain your position and ensure nothing comes through. You are not, in any way, authorized to close the door.”
of our team is to seal these things,” I replied. “It doesn’t matter if this one is unique, it’s still an unstable tear in reality. Besides, who knows what’s on the other side?”
“That’s exactly why R&D wants to inspect it. We have no idea what these rifts are capable of and the Council believes this is a rare opportunity to gather information. We are, after all, a society based on knowledge.”
The last line was a common phrase among the Skilled. Magic, like many natural forms of power, was as complex as it was mysterious. Even with several millennia of practicing under our belt, the Skilled still hadn’t figured out every aspect of what drove the power we tapped into for our spells. As such, we usually jumped at any chance to learn more about the world around us, especially if it meant studying a phenomenon that was as mysterious as it was dangerous.
But there were limits, even for the Skilled.
“Wizard Pell, I cannot emphasize enough how stupid it is to keep this thing open. My team alone has sealed three rifts this month and not a single one was packed with bunnies and marshmallows. Does no one remember the Hellcat that nearly wiped out my family?”
“Everyone does,” Pell replied softly. “But the Elders have made this decision.”
“Heaven forbid anyone question the gods.” I had no doubt the receiver of his phone was soaked with my sarcasm.
“I don’t like it any more than you do, but there’s no debating with the Elders.” He sounded almost robotic. “Expect a team of Wizards and Witches to arrive in less than an hour.”
I gritted my teeth and swore.
“Beg your pardon?” Pell asked.
“I said, ‘acknowledged.’”
The old man sighed. “Just be careful.” Then the line went dead.
I gave the team a quick update. Everyone groaned.
“What in the world are they thinking?” Helga demanded.
“Knowledge is power.” Arbent’s voice was heavy as he echoed Pell’s comment. “It’s stupid, but I can see why they would want to study this thing.”
The rift hummed louder, its edges sparking as the cold air pouring out of it intensified. The reality around the tear seemed to bend away, almost like it was trying to escape the deluge of unnatural energies.
Helga eased away from the rift as well. “We may not have an hour.”
Arbent crossed his arms. “I know, but those are our orders. Let’s hope nothing happens till the research team arrives.”
Alistair started toward the rift. “Screw R&D. Let’s see what is so special about this thing.”
“Stay put, kid,” Arbent warned.