Pocket Star has some great digital releases hitting stores today, and I have excerpts to share. I think Fixer looks awesome, and can a romance reader actually resist a new release from Lisa Renee Jones? And last but certainly not least, for all of you Star Trek fans, there’s a new novella based on the Original Series to sink your teeth into. Check out Pocket Star’s online community at XOXO After Dark.
FIXER by Jeff Somers
A prequel story to We Are Not Good People, the gritty new supernatural thriller from master storyteller Jeff Somers. Enter the hidden world of blood mages—and their victims.
The underground few who practice blood magic—casting with a swipe of the blade and a few secretive Words—are not good people. Lem and Mags live in this world, and they try to be good, try to skate by on Cantrips and charms and scratch out a meager existence without harming anyone…much. But when a massive debt forces Lem into the role of Fixer, he’ll learn exactly what down and out really means.
This ebook story also contains an excerpt of the forthcoming We Are Not Good People, out June 3, 2014.
It should have worked. It did work, right up until it didn’t.
“You got your trained bear on a leash, Vonnegan?”
I looked up and stared at Heller, his shaved head flaking into drifts of off-white skin that settled on the shoulders of his black fur coat. The big oversized sunglasses were studded with rhinestones, some of which had fallen off. He looked like he probably smelled, but I wasn’t going to test the theory. He didn’t appear to be wearing a shirt under the coat, though I was fucking relieved to see pants emerging from under its hem. Two kids, Asian and skinny and smoking cigarettes, stood on either side of him. Heller didn’t go for muscle. Heller went for speed.
Next to me, I heard Mags literally growling. I reached up and put a hand on his shoulder. I was slowly starting to realize that Mags had somehow bonded to me in unholy matrimony, and I was beginning to make long-term life plans that involved him.
I took a deep breath. “Listen—”
Heller held up a hand. “Save the bullshit, Vonnegan. You owe me thirty thousand fucking dollars, and you told me you’d have it tonight.”
I leaned back in my chair and let my hand slip off Mags’s shoulder. I decided that if the big guy went nuts and killed Heller by accident, I would allow it. Around us, Rue’s Morgue flowed and buzzed, populated by a big group of slummers from uptown who’d somehow found the bar. The extra humidity and noise was straining the environment beyond its capabilities, and everything had become smoky and dense, the air getting thicker as more drinks were poured.
I’d never had much energy for bullshit. When I started a lie, it got heavier and heavier until I couldn’t hold it up anymore. So I just went for brutal honesty.
“I don’t have it,” I said, spreading my hands. “I had a line on something, but it . . . didn’t work out.”
I pictured the ustari who’d brought me to this state, her and her lone Bleeder. She was a bottom dweller, going after her own kind. And that meant I wasn’t even a bottom dweller. I was fucking underground.
Heller smiled. His teeth were little green pebbles in his mouth, and I didn’t like looking at them, but I forced myself to smile back. We were equals, I told myself. I’d had ten years of apprenticeship that had gotten me nowhere, and a lot of the . . . people, the magicians, who hung out at Rue’s were way ahead of me, but I was learning fast. Heller acted like he was some sort of fucking Lord of the Shitheads, and I told myself that was an illegitimate position: No one had elected him.
“I don’t give a fuck what worked out or didn’t work out: You owe me fucking money and you don’t have it.” He nodded, once, as if coming to a sudden decision. “Go touch your fucking gasam for it, right? Enough screwin’ around.”
Thinking of Hiram and his hot, musty apartment and his tendency to believe that verbal abuse was a fine motivator, I shook my head. Gasam had been one of the first Words I’d learned: teacher, Master. The implied bondage in the Word hadn’t sat well with me. That should have been a sign it was all going to hell sooner rather than later.
I shot my cuffs and thought. Anything to not have to crawl back to that fat little thief and beg him for help. Anything. In service to the grift, I’d even tried to improve my look by investing in a fifteen-dollar suit from St. Mary’s thrift store; it fit like it had been made for show and possibly out of cardboard. But thirty thousand dollars, I’d recently discovered, was a lot more money than I’d thought. It was turning into an impossible amount of money.
Keeping my smile in place, I shook my head and pursed my lips. “Isn’t come to that yet, Heller,” I said. “Give me a couple more days.”
Heller’s smile widened and he gestured, vaguely, in the air, with one hand. Rings glinted on his wiry fingers. I had a second of anxiety, then the weird sense of blood in the air. Then I was being pushed down into my chair by an invisible force, so hard I couldn’t breathe.
“I could Charm ya out of it,” Heller said, stepping over to take hold of an empty chair and dropping it next to me. I could move my eyes but nothing else. Someone behind me, casting spells.
My heart was pounding. Next to me, I could hear Mags, caught the same as me, straining against the spell, trying to launch himself from the chair. I hated Heller, suddenly. He’d seemed vaguely ridiculous before, running his games, dressing like a porn producer from the 1970s. But now I owed him thirty thousand dollars, and I hated him. And I’d come so close to getting out from under him, too.
It should have worked. It did work. Until it didn’t.
MY HUNGER by Lisa Renee Jones
From New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones, an Inside Out series e-short told from Mark’s point of view, as he battles his all-consuming desire for Crystal.
Devastated by Rebecca’s death, Mark is facing the chaos of the press and the police investigation alone, his reputation, his business, and even his freedom under threat. When a family emergency sends him back east to New York, he puts Crystal—who’s as capable as she is challenging—in charge of his San Francisco art gallery. A Master, all about control, right now he feels that he has none. With his secret sex club and his relationships of the past in the spotlight, Mark finds sanctuary in the one place he promised he would never be again—but cannot seem to resist. Crystal’s arms.
MY HUNGER by Lisa Renee Jones
“Hi,” she says softly, almost timidly, and this part of her is as much who she is as the one who screamed more at me. The contrast appeals to me. She appeals to me.
“Hello, Ms. Smith,” I reply.
“Make up your mind,” she insists. “Is it Crystal or Ms. Smith?”
My lips curve. “I find I’m surprisingly willing to keep my options open where you’re concerned. Let me help you with your coat.” I step behind her, my hands settling on her shoulders, my actions making my words a command rather than a question. I do not intend to ask Crystal Smith for anything.
“Thank you,” she murmurs, shrugging out of the trench coat.
Testing the tension between us, I drag it down her arms, letting my hands caress the sheer red chiffon sleeves of her dress, and she shivers. The attraction between us is a simmering heat ready to boil over, and no matter how absolutely wrong she is for me, or me for her, we aren’t through with each
The waiter appears and I’m handing off Crystal’s coat when she whirls around and intercepts it. “I’ll keep it here,” she says quickly.
The way she holds it close tells me she’s preparing for a fast retreat, which means I’d been right. She ran from my hotel room.
I motion to the seat, silently suggesting we sit, but she doesn’t immediately move. Of course not. That would suggest a hint of submission, and she doesn’t intend to submit. And since I don’t intend to ever convert another woman who isn’t already living the lifestyle, we have no options. We cannot fuck again, no matter how much tension is in the air.
So we stand there, the seconds ticking by, and I arch a brow. Her sweet little pink tongue flicks over her lush, red-painted lips, and I think of how close I’d been to having that tongue and mouth on my cock. I slide into the booth, noticing how Crystal sits far from the center, where lovers might gravitate. We, though, are not lovers. We are “just a fuck.” Not even two.
The waiter returns and offers us menus. Crystal accepts hers, opening it, and glances across the table at me. “Do you have a recommendation?”
“We’re both virgins tonight,” I say.
She laughs, mischief in her eyes. “I’m pretty sure you weren’t a virgin even when you were born, Mark Compton.” The waiter chokes and Crystal flushes, as if she’d forgotten he was there.
I cut a look at the college-age waiter, who is looking like a deer in the headlights, not sure if he should go or stay. “Do you have a recommendation?”
Looking relieved, he quickly replies, “Best burger and fries in New York City.”
“Just fries for me,” Crystal says. “And a Diet Coke.” She slides her menu across the table. “The diet drink makes up for the grease.”
This somehow perfectly fits the logic I’m coming to expect from her. “I’ll take the burger with my fries,” I say, also offering my menu to the waiter. “Well done, with bacon and cheddar cheese.” My lips quirk. “And a Diet Coke to combat the grease.”
He snatches up our menus and departs. Crystal smiles at me. “I’m a good influence on your diet.”
“Had I known Diet Coke killed grease, I’d have given up my gym routine and healthy eating for burgers and fries a long time ago.”
She sighs, and the tension I’d sensed in her seems to be fading. “Truthfully, I normally force myself to order a salad, but I’m just too exhausted to care tonight.”
“I trust you had our contracted courier handle the delivery of the auction items?”
“Yes. They should arrive tomorrow.”
“And I’ll head back to San Francisco tomorrow. They hope to release my mother from the hospital on Thursday, so if all goes well I’ll be back by then.”
“Don’t worry about Riptide. I’ll take care of the auction house and let you know if I have a problem I need help with.” Her tone sobers. “You can count on me, Mark. Nothing is going to change that, and I’m very attached to your mother.”
“As she is to you.” My curiosity about why she doesn’t work for her family’s computer empire gets the best of me. “Are you close to your mother, as well?”
“I love her very much, but we’re very different. I think I bond with your mother because we’re so alike.”
“Driven and hard-headed,” I comment. “I’d have to agree. And your mother is . . . ?”
She seems to consider her choice of words before saying, “Submissive.”
“Submissive,” I repeat, reminded of a few other comments that make me wonder if she’s more familiar with the BDSM world than she’s let on. “To your father?”
“To him and to everything. It’s her personality.”
“Then you inherited the dominant gene from your father, I assume.”
“I’m adopted, so what I inherited are overly protective, loving parents and two brothers. If they all had their way, I’d work for the family business and I’d live in a luxury apartment I didn’t earn myself. They’d examine the resumes of any men wishing to date me and ask for a medical report on anyone I slept with, and in general my world would be those roses and chocolates I mentioned.”
Her words seem playful, but there’s something dark in her eyes, something vulnerable—and if I’m right, there’s pain. “How old were you when you were adopted?” I ask, choosing my questions cautiously.
“Fourteen, and yes, it’s an old age to get adopted.”
I know what it’s like to bury something that hurts that you don’t want to be known, and I know when I see it in someone else, as I do now with her. Suddenly there’s so much more to Crystal Smith than there was before, an explanation for why I’m drawn to her.
About to ask where she was before the adoption, I silently curse when the waiter appears and places our drinks on the table.
“So,” Crystal says the instant we’re alone, as if she’s trying to direct the conversation away from whatever I might ask next. “You mentioned wanting to talk to me about something. What is it?”
Seeing no point in waiting, I reply, “I assume you know what happened with my gallery back in San Francisco?”
“I know your sales rep Mary was arrested for trying to move counterfeit art through Riptide, and shockingly Ricco Alvarez was involved. I’m not sure what makes a famous artist worth millions do such a thing.”
Jealousy over Rebecca. “The important thing is that you’re prepared for customers who might have read about it and have questions.”
“Your mother and I discussed how to handle press inquiries and customer concerns.”
There’s one problem solved. “Do you know about Rebecca?”
“The last I heard, she was on a leave of absence.”
A band seems to tighten around my chest. “She was.”
Brow furrowing, Crystal asks, “Was? She’s back or . . .” Her eyes go wide. “Oh no. Was she involved in the counterfeit situation, too? Your mother seemed to think so much of her. That would destroy her.”
She’s right. My mother was fond of Rebecca, much like she is of Crystal. “She wasn’t involved. She’s dead.”
STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES : THE MORE THINGS CHANGE by Scott Peason
A thrilling e-novella based on Star Trek: The Original Series!
Six months after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Doctor Christine Chapel and Spock must save the life of an ailing Audrid Dax, her true nature as a Trill having remained a mystery until now. But after an unknown vessel attacks their shuttle, a risky game of cat-and-mouse may be the only way to save all their lives.
Doctor Christine Chapel folded down a jump seat from the port bulkhead of the shuttlecraft Copernicus and dropped into it while mumbling a few choice curses she’d picked up from Leonard McCoy over the years. The famously gruff chief medical officer of the Enterprise had been her mentor in many ways—both good and bad.
Her so-called patient, sitting up in the bed on the other side of the cabin, said, “My hearing is unaffected by my condition, you know.”
Chapel didn’t know exactly what role Commissioner Audrid Dax had in the Trill government, but it was important enough that she represented Trill in high-level Federation meetings, and she clearly had a lot of pull. With a sigh, Chapel studied her patient. Dax was in her early middle age, looking quite fit and trim. Beautiful, really, with long dark hair and a friendly face showing only a few laugh lines. Chapel hoped she herself looked that good ten or fifteen years down the road. All of which belied the necessity of this assignment. Dax smiled back at her, somehow charming and smug at the same time, as if she knew everything that Chapel didn’t. Which is exactly the problem, thought Chapel. This whole mission is a mystery.
“I’ll have to take your word on that, won’t I?” Chapel didn’t like that Dax had turned her bedside manner into McCoy’s curmudgeonly approach, but a patient demanding emergency evac yet refusing all medical scans could get under any doctor’s skin.
“I know it’s awkward.” Dax was still smiling, but sympathetically now. “But I can’t ignore centuries of Trill tradition because I’m suffering from a little personal discomfort.”
Chapel nodded her grudging acceptance but turned away from Dax. If this was only a “little personal discomfort,” why were they racing to rendezvous with the Troyval, a Trill starship? The crew cabin of the Copernicus had been quickly reconfigured as an emergency medical unit; a privacy wall separated the cabin from the cockpit aft of the side doors, and a portable diagnostic bed had been installed along the starboard bulkhead—but with its scanners off-line. Chapel distracted herself from her dilemma by thinking about the design improvements these new shuttlecraft had over the shuttles the Enterprise had during the five-year mission. The large drop-down door in the stern allowed various modules to be quickly installed, depending on specific mission needs. She rolled her eyes. First she was channeling McCoy, now she was turning into Scotty.
Spock’s deep voice emanating from a ceiling speaker shook her out of her reverie. “Doctor, may I have a word with you?”
Chapel glanced at Dax. “Excuse me.” She got up and made her way forward, hoping Spock would tell her the Troyval would be meeting them ahead of schedule. As the door of the med unit slid shut behind her, she settled into the copilot seat on Spock’s right. He no longer looked as severe as he had when first returning to the Enterprise six months before at the start of the V’ger mission, but he didn’t often look comfortable either. He’d gone through a lot back then, breaking his Kolinahr training—the path to total logic—and then mind-melding with the giant machine entity V’ger. It had shaken the Vulcan to his core, transforming his outlook on the role of emotions and logic in his life. He was a changed man but still adjusting to such a profound personal upheaval. Chapel felt an ache in her heart for her friend whenever she saw him doubt himself, a lost expression sometimes plain on his face, at least to those who knew him well.