NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED – Something extra :)

As a ‘Welcome’ to my new followers here and everywhere else, and as a “Thank you” to all who have taken the time to review my books, here is another deleted chapter from NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED.

A little background, this is the third of four added chapters that gave a bit more background to how Magnolia came to rely so much on Thirteen and his opinions of her.  During the final edit, it was decided that these chapters weren’t necessary as we wanted to get to the heart of the story a bit faster.  If you missed the first two deleted chapters, you can check them out here.

In this chapter, Magnolia is finally learning how to drive.  It doesn’t quite go as smoothly as everyone had hoped. 😉

NO PEACE

Chapter 3

The next weekend I sat in the driver’s seat of Thirteen’s car, my hands white-knuckling the steering wheel.  I tried to calm down but couldn’t.

“What just happened, Magnolia?”

My heart pounded so loudly in my ears I barely heard him.  “He recognized me, Thirteen.  That man back there.  He recognized me.”

Thirteen turned in his seat to look back at the crosswalk.  I’d pulled to the curb and from the rearview mirror I could see the guy staggering, holding his head while his friends helped him back to the sidewalk.  He wiped at his face.  Blood streamed from his nose, I could see it dripping onto his suit jacket from here.  Damn it! 

“What did you do to him?” Thirteen’s voice was low.  His trying-not-to-pass-judgment-but-still-disapproving voice.

“That man, Jeremy Jefferson, he came to the estate for Father’s holiday party last year.  It was only a few weeks before I escaped.  When he saw me through the windshield just now, he recognized me.”

“What did you do to him, Magnolia?”

I adjusted my grip, shifted in my seat.  “Nothing, okay?  I just erased my image from his mind.  That’s all.”

“Then why did he collapse.  Why is he still bleeding from his sinuses?”

I glanced in the rearview mirror again.  His friends had moved him to a nearby bench.  One was on his cell phone, calling their doctor friend before taking Jeremy to the ER.

“So, maybe I was a little too … forceful.  I didn’t mean to.  He surprised me.”  Thirteen cocked a brow.  My hackles rose.  “I won’t have people recognizing me, Thirteen.  It was my choice to stay around here – I get that – but Father and my family think I’m dead.  I’ll kill before I let anyone tell them differently.”

I kept my eyes on Jeremy as he tilted his head back to try and stop the nosebleed.  Thirteen’s gaze was a heavy weight on the side of my face. “Then you aren’t really free at all, are you?”

I spun in my seat and glared at him.  “Of course I’m free.  I escaped.  I’m here aren’t I?”

“But you are still holding on to the notion of fleeing.  You are still hiding.”

“You’re the one hiding me!”

“Not the way I was.  Banks comes over regularly now; I’ve returned the house cameras to their functioning purpose, completed paperwork on your stay at the safe house.  Granted, I’ve used your alias, but you’re like anyone else under Network protection now.”

The radio popped as a lash of power slipped past my control.  Thirteen barely flinched.

“What do you want me to do?” I shouted.  “Just announce to the world who I am?  You don’t know anything!  You think because you have these files and research on my family, that you have a clue who we really are.  You know nothing!”

“Then explain it to me, Magnolia.”

“You don’t want to know.”

“It’s about you.  Of course, I want to know.”

I narrowed my eyes at him.  “Okay, fine. You really want to know?  Fine, I’ll show you.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

His brows scrunched together.  “What do you mean you’ll show –“

I drilled the memories into his mind without warning.  In a dual image, I saw Thirteen’s face contort with shock and confusion at the same time I saw a younger version of my father enter his study at the estate.

“What is your problem?” Father hissed while the guards stood over me. Father wore one of his many custom business suits, while the three burly men were dressed in the black camo that all estate guards wore.  Their hands and faces were splattered with fresh blood.

The biggest one stood at attention.  “I’m sorry, sir, but all of our efforts have been unsuccessful.”

            Father waved his hand.  The giant guard flew across the room, slamming hard into the study wall before falling unconscious to the Aubusson covered floor.  “I’ll do it myself,” Father snarled.

            His eyes looked down on me with disgust.  As I watched, his face changed.  There was no shifting of features or popping of bones, but his expression went cold, dark – like he had just pulled on a mask that took his regal cheekbones and icy blue eyes and covered his handsomeness with something terrifying.  I felt myself cower instinctively.  Then his hands were around my throat.  His fingers and thumbs overlapped because my infant neck was so tiny.  His teeth ground together as his grip tightened.  The pain was shocking.  The burn of my lungs, excruciating.  My eyes ached as dark red filled my vision.  Unconsciousness took me as Father’s fingers cut through the skin at my neck.

            His hands were still on me when I opened my eyes again, but the terrifying mask was gone.  His eyes grew so wide I could see the white all the way around his expanding pupils. 

“Is there a problem?”  Uncle Max’s drawl came from somewhere nearby.  Father’s face shut down.  His posture took on that arrogant stance that would later become his trademark in the business world.

“No problem, Maxwell,” he said smoothly.  “Just a change in plans.”

I warned you this would happen.  Uncle Max’s voice was different this time.  Further away.

We’ll harness her, Father replied in an equally faraway tone.  Transfuse her blood into ours.  I’ll need to test her first, see what other abnormalities she might have, but her blood will only grow our strength.

And if her powers can’t be harnessed?

Father glared down at me again, that terrifying mask back in place.  No one can heal everything. He turned with a flourish and left me, staring at the ceiling, struggling to breath past the pain of resurrection.

Thirteen blinked, took a steadying breath.  I didn’t care.  I wasn’t done with this little show and tell.  I pushed more memories into him, knocking him back against the passenger door.

Straps, chains, blood, pain – again and again, always more pain.  Always Father’s terrifying face.  Over the years, too many failed attempts to end my life had changed the mask.  There was rage over the darkness now.  A hatred so pure, so evil, that no normal human being could contain it.  His powers fed off of it.

I slowed the flow of memories and brought to surface one where I was being whipped, blood dripping down my face into my hair as I hung upside down over a drain in one of the horse barns.  Through the pain I saw my two brothers, hiding in the shadows, watching.  Malcolm smirked at the sight of me.  Markus cowered.

“Mallroy is going to throw a fit about your messing one of his horse stalls again,” Uncle Max said.  I was a young child now, old enough to recognize the difference between their spoken voices and their telepathic ones.  The black suit he’d worn for the election celebration hung perfectly over his middle aged physique.  His thoughts were particularly smug – the minds of his constituents had so easily fallen prey to his mental manipulations.  He’d won by a landslide.  Now, he was in the mood for some entertainment.

Father stood back, eying me with a clinical detachment.  The barbed whip hung loosely in his hand.  He’d rolled up his shirt sleeves after the party but it hadn’t kept my blood and flesh from splattering all over him.  He ran the back of his wrist along his brow trailing a slash of red in its wake.

“Look at her,” Father said baring his teeth.  “So fucking defiant.  It’s like those blasted gypsies all over again.  Thinking they were powerful enough to muscle us out of the Russian weapons deal.  Fucking fire-starters.  And she’s even worse!  You know she doesn’t even cry out anymore at the whips?  Hardly even worth the time to come out here.”

Uncle Max stepped closer to me.  I flinched automatically.  He smiled. 

He grabbed my hair and held my head in place.  “You’ll have to be especially creative if you want to break her again.  After all, she isn’t like the other supernaturals we have to deal with on occasion.  She’s one of us.”  Only more so in some ways, aren’t you little Magnolia?  His thoughts whispered to himself.  What is it inside you that allows our blood to grow so much stronger? I stared into his eyes, not moving, not reacting at all.  His smile vanished as his eyes narrowed.

Heat pressed against my forehead – the familiar prelude to Uncle Max’s aggressive telepathy.   Instantly, I focused my thoughts. I could feel his powers as they scrubbed the inside of my mind – scraping at my thoughts like nails on a chalkboard.  I made sure he saw all the fear, all the pain.  Dear Lord, how much more pain could they entice?  When he finally pulled back, that small smile had returned. With a toss of my hair he pushed me back.  The room spun, the hooks through my heels that dangled me from the ceiling pulled against the tendons. I bit my tongue until I tasted blood just to keep from screaming.

“Try heating up the barbs before you use the whips,” Uncle Max suggested as he strolled away from me.  “She wants to know how much more pain you can actually entice.  Apparently, she hopes to challenge you.”

I closed my eyes.  Father roared.

The memory faded until the sound of Thirteen’s sobs were all that filled the car. He was white as a sheet.  Both hands covered his face – it would be a while before he’d be able to speak again.  I glanced in the rearview mirror.  Jeremy and his friends had moved on, probably to the nearest MedCheck to make sure he wasn’t hemorrhaging or something.

I ignored my shaking hands and started the car.  No point staying around here.  Something told me Thirteen wasn’t in the mood to finish our driving lesson.

As I pulled into the street, Uncle Max’s words echoed in my ears.  After all, she is one of us.  Thirteen had wanted to know about me and my family?  Well, there it was.  We were evil.  Power, hate, pain – it was in our blood.  And whether I’d participated in their violent criminal acts or not, I was one of them.  Even Uncle Max acknowledged that much.

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Just a little gratitude

I just wanted to take a moment and say Thank You to everyone who has read No Peace for the Damned and No Love for the Wicked.  It boggles my morning every day when I reach that moment of realization (usually about halfway through my second cup of coffee) that not only have these small pieces of my mind’s world been put to print, but that there are people out there who have actually read the words – my words – that make up these characters and stories.  You have no idea what that means to me.

I’d also like to send a big, huge, mega THANK YOU to anyone who has ever taken the time to rate or review my books.  Good, bad, indifferent – taking those few moments to tell the world, “Hey,I read this” is truly the life breath of a writer.

So basically, you are all incredibly awesome people who have totally made a difference in my life.  Thank you.

Back by popular demand – NO PEACE deleted chapters!

For those who missed the first of the NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED prequel chapters, click here to get brought up to speed.  This next chapter picks up right where the first left off: Magnolia, wide-eyed and free, experiencing the world outside of her family’s estate for the first time.  But what happens when a Network agent other than Thirteen discovers her presence? Let’s find out, shall we? 🙂

***By the way, as you read this, please keep in mind that these chapters have only been partially edited. There is a fairly good chance that you may come across an inconsistency or content error.  If you don’t mind, just ignore those little things and move on.  Thanks! ****

NO PEACE

Living on the estate, one day ran into the next.  The sun would rise and set, guests would come and go, but for me every day was the same.  Fear, hiding, pain, healing – a stagnant existence where moments stood out only because of the severity of my punishment or fear.

Now, though, time flew as I eagerly soaked in every new experience.  Grocery stores, banks, gas stations, restaurants – God, there was just so much.  Thirteen became my constant companion, walking me through the normal, everyday things I needed to know to exist in society.  I stayed in his mind constantly, waiting for that open kindness to slip and reveal the manipulative intentions underneath.

It never happened.

Instead, he kept my presence secret, even from the rest of his Network.  Since my family believed I was dead, it was his way of protecting me until I was ready to go out on my own.

The days stretched into weeks and before I realized it, two months had passed.  I plopped down on the sofa beside Thirteen.  He’d stopped by for his daily visit and was reviewing the game plan for one of his teams’ mission on his laptop.

“You need to teach me how to drive,” I said.

Thirteen stopped typing and angled the screen away from me.  Whatever.  If he wanted to pretend I didn’t know everything about the Network after being in his mind all this time, fine.  He could keep his little delusions.

“You think you’re ready for that?” he asked.

“Totally.  I’m doing great going out in public now.”

Okay, so maybe great was an overstatement.  But I hadn’t hurt anyone in weeks.  There were just too many people around here who worked for my father.  I’d always known Kelch, Inc. was enormous what with its pharmaceuticals and consumer products and weapons contracts, but who knew that a trip to the grocery store would mean running into a dozen people stressing about their jobs.  I heard a hateful thought and the name Kelch and I attacked.  So sue me.  At least I always remembered to erase the experience from my victim’s mind before we returned to the safe house.

“What about the telepathy?  Are you still feeling overwhelmed?”

I sipped at my Jim Beam.  The stuff was nasty compared to the stock of Four Flowers that Uncle Max always kept on hand, but it did the job.  “It’s better,” I lied thinking of all the voices that swam in my head whenever I went someplace crowded.  “I’m getting used to it.”

He pressed his lips together.  “Still, driving, going out alone, it’s dangerous.”

I looked at my drink.  Screw it.  “Okay, look.  Truth is I’ve been going out alone ever since you brought me here.  I mean, come on.  You didn’t really expect me to just sit here forever and wait around for you to show up and take me out?  Granted, I’ve been invisible a lot of the time – people falling into lust-comas whenever I walk through the door kind of gets old – but just the other day I walked to the mini-mart and got a bag of cookies and I was visible and everything.”  I lifted my chin.  “I’m not your prisoner, Thirteen.  I can do what I want.”  I had to keep reminding myself of that, though.

“Of course you can, Magnolia.”  His overly patient voice made me grind my teeth.  “And I agree, your acclimation to the world outside of your family’s estate has been impressive.  Most especially these last couple weeks.”  He studied me for a moment then sighed.  Yes!  I tried to temper my ear-to-ear grin as he said, “All right.  We can take the SUV out this afternoon.  Just let me finish…”

The front door flew open, slamming against the back wall with a bang.  A lumbering, train wreck of a man pounded his way into the foyer.  Nearly as big as Thirteen, the man’s barrel chest spread into his gut, sagging over his waistband.   Long reddish hair frazzled on top of his head.  He stood at an angle, his wide frame barely held upright by an out-of-date metal prosthetic leg.  And his face was scarred like he’d been mauled by some animal.  In fact, his one eye was covered by a shiny metal eye patch sewn directly into his face.  Was he trying to look like a cyborg?  Didn’t matter.  Only thing that mattered was that he was here. And he was pissed.

“Thirteen, you lying bastard!” the man bellowed.  “Who the hell do you think you are keeping someone….”  That was all he got out.

I moved faster than they could track.  One moment I sat on the couch beside Thirteen, the next I was across the room, slamming into the unwieldy man.  With one hand wrapped around his throat, I held him against the foyer wall, his feet dangling off the ground.

“Magnolia, don’t!” Thirteen’s voice stopped me.

I glanced over my shoulder.  “This a friend of yours?  I thought no one was supposed to come here.”

“Please,” Thirteen said slowly.  He stepped carefully around the sofa to stand in front of the open door.  “This is Banks.  He is my second in command at the Network.  I’ve never told him or anyone else about your staying here.  My guess is he figured out the house was being used and assumed correctly that I was keeping things from him.”

I turned back to the man I still held against the wall.  His one eye bulged from lack of oxygen.  I moved right up into to his face, our noses almost touching.  “If you think for a moment that being friends with Thirteen will keep you safe if you try anything against me, it will be a moment you regret.”  With a quick push, I peeked at his thoughts.  Wow, he was really on the verge of unconsciousness.  And he hadn’t figured out who I was yet.  Not very impressive for a second in command.  I released him and he fell to the floor with a thud.  Whatever.  I went back to my drink as Thirteen scanned the street outside and closed the front door.

Damn it! I couldn’t believe he’d surprised me like that.  I needed to sharpen up.  Fast.  Back at the estate, I’d always known the warning signs.  Father’s frustration meant I was about to play whipping post.  His excitement: time to be guinea pig for one of his experiments.  And if Father or Uncle Max had been pissed off about something – well, that just meant I needed to run, hide and pray for unconsciousness before the real pain kicked in.  Here, I didn’t know the tells.

Well, screw that.

The big man, Banks, was bent at the waist, coughing in gasps of air.  Thirteen knelt beside him, attentive-like.  Why his concern pissed me off, I had no idea.  I threw back the rest of my drink and waited.

When Banks finally lifted his head, he glared at me.  “Who is she, Thirteen?” he wheezed.  Thirteen steadied him.  I rolled my eyes.

“Are you alright?” Thirteen asked.

Banks snarled, “Answer the question, damn it!  Who is she?”

Thirteen looked my way.  My skin turned to shrink wrap.  This was the moment I’d been waiting for.  Thirteen had to choose – keep my confidence, or reveal my identity to the rest of his Network.  I hated how desperately I wanted him to choose me.

Magnolia – can you hear me?

His words were as clear as if he’d really spoken.  Thirteen wasn’t telepathic – he was just focusing his thoughts.

Yeah, I hear you.  I replied back into his mind.

His expression turned grim.  My stomach rolled.  I knew what he was going to say even before he thought it.  Damn it, I should have known all along.  No one ever chose me. Never.  It’s just, his illusion had been so perfect.  That whole kindness thing, in his thoughts, in his actions – he must have been sweating bullets to keep up the pretense so completely.  My humiliation grew dark as I felt power chill beneath my skin.

Leave.

I froze.  What?

Now, Magnolia.  Run. Disappear. If you want to contact me again, you’ll figure out how, but for now, go.  Before he realizes who you truly are.

My mind blanked out.  The rising power inside me slunk away.  He chose me.  Over his Network, his second-in-command, over everyone.  I searched his face, looking for the trick.  When all I saw was sincerity, I rifled through his mind, skimming deeper than ever before.  There were holes, thoughts and images he refused to explore, but nothing vengeful or selfish.  He truly wanted to protect me.

When I felt a trail of wetness on my cheek, I reached up automatically.  Tears?  But I wasn’t in any pain.  In fact, there was a warmth growing inside me that I’d never felt before.

Banks pulled away from Thirteen, stood to his full height as he looked back and forth between us.  Suddenly, the entire paradigm of my situation shifted.  Thirteen would keep his word.  It didn’t matter who my family was or what supernatural evil flowed through my veins. He would protect me because he really cared about me.  This moment wasn’t about the choice he had to make.  It was about the choice I had to make.

“This is your last chance, Thirteen,” Banks snarled, staring at me as he spoke.  “Either you tell me who you’ve been harboring against Network protocol or I call for back up.”

Thirteen rose to stand beside his second.  And kept rising.  As big as Banks was, Thirteen was still a full head taller.  When he looked down on the mangled man, it was very clear which of the two was used to receiving ultimatums, and which was used to giving them.

“It would be in your best interest to remember who the superior officer is here, Banks.” Thirteen’s deep voice was eerily low.

Banks pointed a hard finger my way.  “That usurps ranking and you know it!”

Thirteen’s chest puffed up.  He was about to overstep his own rules.  He hated doing it, but he would break any rule he needed to to keep his word to me.

“Tell him.”  My voice came out in a shaky squeak.  “Tell him, Thirteen.”  I reached down for my glass, my hand shaking so badly I sloshed the whiskey on my fingers.  After a long drink I lifted my chin.  “I’m free now.  No one here can hurt me.  Not you, or him, or any of your other Network agents.  You don’t need to compromise yourself to protect me.  I can take care of myself.”

And I could.  I mean, I had escaped, hadn’t I?   I’d been learning how to live out here in the real world.  Hell, pretty soon I’d even be able to drive.  So what if Thirteen’s Network knew about me.  It was like he said, I hadn’t done anything wrong.  Other than being born a Kelch.

As Thirteen finally nodded and began explaining my situation to Banks, his words became a buzz in my ears.

I never imagined there could be an emotional tie to someone where you stayed because you wanted to, not because they scared the crap of you.  Thirteen looked back at me, smiled, and I felt that warm thing inside me spread.  Wonder what else I’d find myself capable of now that I’d chosen to stay?

Giveaways and Discussions, coming right up!

There are all kinds of fun things taking place now that NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED has hit the shelves!  (and now that I am slowly getting more comfortable on Goodreads) 😉  Check these out:

– Amazon is currently offering a Giveaway Contest of NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED!  The contest runs until August 27th so get your entries in to get your free copy!

– On Thursday, August 29th, I will be holding a Question/Answer session on Goodreads called Ask Megan Powell.  I’ll be discussing NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED, but will also be open to answering all kinds of questions about the series, about Magnolia, the Kelches, the Network, or about writing in general.  Feel free to stop by and say hi!

I have to admit, I’m not sure what to expect with my first Q&A, but hopefully everyone will be nice and it will be nothing short of tons of fun!

I’ll keep you posted as more event dates get closer.  Until then, hope you are enjoying Magnolia’s latest adventure! 🙂

 

Release day for NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED!!!

RELEASE DAY IS HERE!!!!

Cover on Amazon

I’m just beside myself thinking that my second book is actually out there.  And that people are actually reading it!! It boggles the mind, truly.

Even more boggling are the number of friends and family and just plain wonderful people who have been blowing up my phone and email with messages of congrats.  You have know idea what that means!!

I would like to take a quick moment and thank all of the folks at 47North for their hard work in getting NO LOVE on the shelves. Also – because they are some of the most incredible people I know – a huge *MWAH!!* to Jo Volpe, Suzie Townsend, Danielle Barthel and everyone else at New Leaf Literary. Dream makers is the only way to describe what those people do.

Finally, let me close with a shout out to my husband who went behind my back to make me these two awesome posters for my little home library.

posters

What a perfect way to combine by love of writing with my love of decorating. 🙂 Hugs and kisses, babydoll!

Because I dropped the ball…Deleted Scenes from NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED

Cover on Amazon

Yeah, I totally dropped the ball on the daily teaser countdown to NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED. To my defense, I have been fighting the killer combo of sinus infection and debilitating migraine for three days so I kinda dropped the ball on life in general for a while there.

Anyway, to make up for my missing teasers – and to celebrate the Day Before Release Day of NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED (woo-hoo!!) – I’m posting some never-before-seen deleted scenes from NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED. Check it out:

NO PEACE

Before NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED was published, I was asked to write a handful of extra chapters that bridged the gap between the Prologue (Magnolia’s escape) and Chapter 1 (Magnolia’s introduction to the Network).  These chapters focused primarily on the relationship between Thirteen and Magnolia.  Below you will see the first of these chapters picking up right where the prologue left off. Magnolia had just escaped her family’s home only to be run down on the interstate.  Things could only go uphill from there, right? 😉

This was so messed up. 

Dying had been bad enough.  Waking up in the back seat of a moving car, one of Father’s enemies at the wheel – I could practically hear Fate’s evil chuckle laughing in my ear.

            “You’re reading my thoughts, aren’t you?”

His deep voice went perfectly with his huge frame.  His shaggy gray hair brushed the car’s ceiling.  I’d moved into the front seat after we’d made our introductions back on the highway.  I suppose in some twisted way it was a blessing that he’d been the one to find me.  Any normal person would have flipped out watching the person they’d just run over heal herself and rise from the dead.  At least he knew better than to call 911.

“You bet your ass I’m reading your thoughts,” I said.  He touched the burn marks across his throat.  “And I’m not apologizing for attacking you when I woke up, either.  You’re one of Father’s and Uncle Max’s enemies.  You and your little Network of police wanna-be’s – you’re probably taking me to some supernatural lock up or something.  As if anything like that could hold me.”

            I scoffed and looked out the window even as my hands trembled.  Power welled under my skin but I kept it in check.  Of all the people in the world, I had to get run over by the man called Thirteen – big-wig leader of the secret Network and perpetual thorn in my family’s side.  How many times had this man’s face flashed in Father’s eyes while he took out his frustrations on me?  God, my life sucked. 

            “And you’re sure your father won’t be searching for you?”

            “No one will be looking for me.  They think I’m really dead.”

             “They don’t know that you can heal yourself?”

            My words stuck in my throat. I kept staring out the window.

            After a moment, he said, “I told you back on the roadside, I have no plans to hold you prisoner, Magnolia.” His rumbly voice was strangely soothing.  And he was telling the truth, which was the weirdest part.  He knew who I was, of course, and who my family was.  But he was torn.  Like now that he had me, he wasn’t sure what to do with me. 

I studied him from the corner of my eye.  Everything about this man warned of big, bad, and in charge.  Everything except his eyes.  Someone like him shouldn’t have such kind eyes.

I tunneled through his thoughts again, looking for any information he might have about me.  He didn’t know much.  His Network agents had files on thousands of supernatural terrorists all over the world, not to mention an entire library on my father and uncles.  But my brothers and I had never been allowed to leave the estate.  We were a mystery.  He rubbed at his neck again.  I rolled my eyes.

            “Is your throat okay?”

“I’m sure it will be fine.  The skin is hot, though.  Did you burn me, or just try to cut off my air supply?”

            “If you want to know what my powers are just ask.  Subtly is a waste of my time.”

            The corner of his mouth twitched.  I’d amused him.  Great.

Surprisingly, he didn’t jump at my opening.  “I’m going to take you to a Network safe house.  There should be some clothes there that you can change in to.”

            I looked down at my bloodied and shredded sports bra and yoga pants.  How long had I been wearing these clothes?  Days?  Weeks?  A safe house had a nice ring to it, but what were the chances it was really safe.  Safe for me, anyway.

            “Why are you being so nice to me?”  I asked.  “I’ve never seen someone with thoughts like yours.  You know who I am but you didn’t even fight me when I woke up and attacked you.”

            “I’d just run over you with my car.  I killed you and watched you come back to life – ”

“But I’m fine now.  And you haven’t thought once about killing me or torturing me for information or taking me prisoner and using me as leverage against my family – not that any of that would actually work, but still.  And you’ve only thought about having sex with me, like, five or six times – make that seven – which is really weird because everyone always wants to have sex me all the time.  Especially when they first meet me.”

            His face turned a searing red as he adjusted his grip on the steering wheel.  “Is that one of your powers, too?  Enticing lust?”

“I wish.  Then I’d be able to turn it off from time to time.  No, the sexual thing is just part of my energy.  One of the many perks of being me.”

My sarcasm must have been spot on because his frown deepened.  An image popped into his mind.  Another young woman, more like a girl.  With long dark hair nearly as long as mine.  She was at least ten years younger than me, barely an adolescent, but when she smiled and laughed Thirteen’s face softened.  “Who is that?”

            He took a deep breath.  “My daughter.  She passed away several years ago.”

            No, that was wrong. She hadn’t passed away – she’d been killed.  By my father?  His thoughts weren’t telling.  But given the fact that Thirteen’s job was to take out supernaturally powered bad guys, I’d bet good money that she’d been killed by one of his enemies. 

Why did that make me feel bad?  I hadn’t killed her.

            “So, what? I remind you of her?  That’s why you’re being nice?”

            His jaw tightened.  “You are exceptionally blunt, do you realize that?”

            “I don’t usually have a lot of time to get my words out.  And pleasantries are for liars.”

            He raised his eyebrows and looked my way. “Yes, you remind me of her.  But that is not the only reason I’m not taking you into custody.  You haven’t done anything wrong.  True, your father and uncles are exceptionally violent supernatural criminals.  But that doesn’t mean that you are.  Supernatural powers alone aren’t a crime.  Until you give me reason to feel otherwise, you are just another person who needs protected.  That’s what the Network does – protect people against that which they can’t protect themselves.” 

He faced forward again.  I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.  He was wrong.  Supernatural power alone was enough to make someone a bad person.  Especially when that person was a Kelch. 

We exited the highway and were suddenly downtown Indianapolis.  For a moment, I completely forgot about Thirteen.  Look at this place!  The buildings were huge – bigger than they looked on television.  It was dark so I knew I was missing a ton of stuff, but there was just so much to see. Everything was cramped together – like the architects didn’t care if one place overlapped with another.  There were lights in windows, lights in billboards, lights on cars, on the sidewalks, in the middle of the streets – I blinked and swear I missed an entire block.

We drove in silence as Thirteen wound up and down one one-way street after another.  Finally, he stopped the car and cut the engine.  The snow falling outside brightened the street making everything glisten.  But inside the car it was suddenly crowded with darkness and silence.

“This is it,” he said softly.  I scanned the houses lining the narrow street.  Most residents were deep into their REM sleeps but a few were up, browsing websites or flipping channels.  No immediate threats that I could detect but no way I’d drop my guard.

I turned in my seat to face Thirteen just as he shifted to face me.  In the dark, the light blue of his eyes shone especially bright. 

“I don’t trust you,” I said sharply.

“I don’t trust you either.”

I narrowed my eyes.  “How many cameras are in the house?”

“Twelve.  One in every room, except the bathrooms, two covering the backyard, three covering the front and sides.”

I lifted a brow. “There are only seven rooms in the whole house?”

“That’s not uncommon.  How many rooms were in your family’s house at the estate?”

“Which one?”

 He shook his head and moved on.  “I’ll need to go inside first and disable the cameras.  Otherwise, the Network offices will know you’re staying here.  I’d rather log a security camera update than fill out any paperwork on you just yet.”

He didn’t say any more but I got the meaning loud and clear:  he might believe that whole ‘supernatural powers didn’t mean automatic guilt’ bullshit, but no way the rest of his Network would feel the same.  Keeping me here was harboring a supernatural fugitive.  That he got that, even if he didn’t believe it, made me think a little better of him.

I stared up at the house, my stomach in knots.  It looked benign enough.  Older brick, small front porch – it actually looked like every other house on the street.  I took a deep breath.  Things were moving so fast.  I should just drop Thirteen right here, right now.  Incapacitate him, steal his car – driving didn’t look too difficult to figure out – then I could drive and drive and never look back. 

But then what?  Go into hiding while I figured out how to live in the real world?  I’d lived my entire life in the shadows of my family’s estate trying desperately not to be seen.  I was free now.  Free people – normal people – didn’t live like that.  I scanned the street again.  But if I stayed here, how long until Thirteen turned on me?

“Magnolia.”

I jumped.  “What?”

I knew he didn’t have telepathy or any other powers, but the way he looked at me just then, it was like he saw things in me that no one had ever seen before.  He inhaled deeply and whether he meant to or not, his mind suddenly opened completely.  For the briefest moment, I saw to the very essence of who he was.  His hopes, his beliefs, his instincts – it was so much more than a train of thought.  And it was good.  In a way that couldn’t be contrived, everything about this man was good. 

I never imagined people like this really existed.

“Okay,” I said, surprised when my voice was rough.  “Go do what you need to and I’ll follow you in.”

He nodded then climbed out of the car and jogged up the front steps.  He moved pretty spritely for a guy older than my Uncle Max.

I leaned my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes.  Thirteen might be a good person, but he was wrong.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t done any of the criminal things my father and uncles had done.  Illegal activity was nothing compared to what my family was really capable was.  Evil was part of the package when you were a Kelch.

I sensed him back on the house’s front stoop.  When he waved me over, I took a steadying breath.  Here I go, walking into the house of a man who wanted to imprison every other member of my family.  Yeah, no way this was going to end badly.

NO LOVE Countdown Teaser – showing some temper

TGIF!!  Heading into the weekend before release day (woo-hoo!!) I thought we all might need a little reminder that Magnolia – try as she might to be a good Network person – still has some wicked Kelch-ness inside of her.

Cover on Amazon

He stepped back and shifted his stance, got ready to defend himself. In my ear, murmured voices grew frantic back at the surveillance station. I couldn’t hear any of them over the throbbing of hate and rage pounding in my ears. They were all so fucking clueless. They thought they could lead a team against my family? My family? They were nothing. I could kill Jon and everyone else here with a mere thought, and they wanted to pit themselves against the supernatural force that spawned me? I laughed. A dark, terrifying sound that I didn’t even recognize.

Yeah, we’re still working on that whole team-player thing. 😉