New Release – Shere Khan by Jade Kerrion

Today I have a New Release for you, Shere Khan- The Masters Reimagined, by my friend Jade Kerrion.  It’s a great telling of this story and well worth reading, I loved it.

Shere Khan

 

Description1

Uncover the truth Rudyard Kipling conceals in his unforgettable masterpiece, The Jungle Book.

One-hundred rupees for the skin of Lungri…

A mysterious Chinese girl arrives in India, determined to claim the bounty on the man-eating tiger. Intrigued by her unrelenting purpose, Rudyard Kipling follows her into the jungle on a mystical adventure that will transform Lungri–The Lame One–into Shere Khan–Tiger Lord.

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR

Q – Is this based on the Kipling or Disney version of The Jungle Book?

A – Did you know that in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (not the reimagined Disney version), Shere Khan was first called Lungri? Did you know that Kaa rescued Mowgli from the monkeys? And did you know that Shere Khan was killed by stampeding buffalo?

My short story, Shere Khan, weaves around Kipling’s story, to tell another story of the conflict between the east and the west, of clashes between cultures and countries, and of a mystical world that runs parallel to our own. It tells you why the man-eating tiger named Lungri–Lame Onewas first and forever acknowledged as Shere Khan–Tiger Lord.

Q – What is The Masters Reimagined?

A – In The Masters Reimagined, ten authors unite to bring something new to the classic stories of literature we all know so well. Masters like James Joyce, Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, and Shakespeare inspired the authors of the Alvarium Experiment in their quest to reinterpret, reinvent, and reshape the stories and characters through speculative twists and turns. This is the third project by the Alvarium Experiment, a consortium of accomplished and award-winning authors.

Q – Where should a reader start when selecting a short story to read in The Masters Reimagined?

A – Each story is self-contained and can be read in any order. The reader is free to select any of the stories at random to begin their experience. The book description will explain the premise for each particular story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author JADE KERRION defied (or leveraged, depending on your point of view) her undergraduate degrees in Biology and Philosophy, as well as her MBA, to embark on her second (and concurrent) career as an award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance author.

Her debut novel, Perfection Unleashed, published in 2012, won six literary awards and launched her best-selling futuristic thriller series, Double Helix, which blends cutting-edge genetic engineering and high-octane action with an unforgettable romance between an alpha empath and an assassin.

If she sounds busy, it’s because she is. Jade writes at 3:00 am when her husband and three sons are asleep, and aspires to make her readers as sleep-deprived as she is.

 

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Eternal Dawn by Jade Kerrion

Today I have a latest release for you by my friend Jade KerrionEternal Dawn, book two in the Aeternae Noctis series.  I have read this series and I highly recommend it.  Start with book one Eternal Night.

Eternal Dawn

 

Description1

Nothing false endures forever. Especially not love…

All parents in Aeternae Noctis have lost children to the culling, among them, the herbalist Rafael Varens. Once more, humanity’s remnants rise in rebellion against the ruthless rule of the three immortal icrathari and their vampire army. Yet again, they are crushed.

When the icrathari Siri seeks a salve for her chronic pain, she and Rafael strike a bargain. He will cure the poison in her blood if she expands the settlement and frees the children, including his son. Their tentative alliance ushers in unexpected friendship, until it is shattered by the cruelest betrayal.

From the darkness below the earth, an ancient and implacable enemy rises, twisting their pain and turning Rafael and Siri against each other—his first step in the destruction of Aeternae Noctis…

Enjoy the thrilling sequel to the award-winning fantasy, Eternal Night.

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New Release – Inflamed by Jade Kerrion

reblogged from www.jadekerrion.com

New Release: INFLAMED

Debra Martinez doesn’t believe in happy endings. Even if she did, she knows she doesn’t deserve one, not after betraying her best friend in the worst possible way. Eight years into single parenthood, her life is a grind of exhaustion in between spikes of fatigue—an endless struggle to make ends meet—until Sean Orr, Havre de Grace’s newest firefighter, shows her and her son, Aidan, a new and beautiful kind of “normal.”

But the happiness can’t last—not for Sean who is on the run from his past. When it catches up with him, will it bring Debra’s fragile normality crashing down around her, or will she find the strength to define her own happy ending?

Available at Amazon and all other major online bookstores

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Excerpt from INFLAMED (Life Shocks Romances #9) by Jade Kerrion

Reblogged from Jade Kerrion

Excerpt from INFLAMED (Life Shocks Romances #9)

VPKTeaser1

Enjoy this excerpt from INFLAMED, part of the VALENTINE PETS AND KISSES anthology!

Tension stiffened Debra’s back, but she smiled at the men, two of whom she recognized. “What can I get for you?”

“Five medium coffees for the boys down at the house.” Jack Landon leaned against the counter, flexing an impressive bicep. He was obviously on duty even though he wore street clothes; firefighting in a small town like Havre de Grace was a casual sort of thing.

“Didn’t know it took three grown men to buy five coffees,” she teased as she filled the order.

“Wanted to show the new guy the town.” Jack jabbed his finger over his shoulder at the tall young man standing behind him. “Sean Orr. He’s taking Larry’s place.”

“Hey.” Debra flashed him a dimpled smile. She estimated his age as mid-twenties, a good eight years younger than she was. “Welcome to Havre de Grace.” She set four cups in a cup holder made of recycled paper and then placed the fifth cup in the middle. “Will that be all, or would you like anything else?”

Ray Peterson, the third firefighter, pushed past Sean and Jack and rested both elbows on the table. He leaned forward, and Debra retreated from his leer even though her cleavage was concealed behind her turtleneck sweater. Ray chuckled as if he sensed her unease and pressed out his cheek with his tongue. “Do you want to come over this weekend? It’s cold out; great night for keeping warm together.”

“Aren’t you and Andrea still together?”

“She’s out of town this weekend. Perfect, you know, for you.” Ray snorted, the sound derisive.

Jack laughed and elbowed Ray. “Let’s get out of here, man, before the coffees get cold.” He led the way out of the store, but amid the quiet chatter of surrounding conversations, Debra heard Sean ask quietly, “What’s her name?”

Ray’s answer slapped her moments before the door slammed shut on their voices. “She’s the other woman.”

To read INFLAMED, pre-order your copy of VALENTINE PETS AND KISSES today!


Amazon US: http://bit.ly/VPKK
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Google Play: http://bit.ly/VPKGp
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First Chapters – Earth Sim by Jade Kerrion

Today I have a First Chapter for you from Earth Sim another awesome book by my friend Jade Kerrion.

Earth Sim

 

Description1

Was the super-continent of Pangaea split because of a management dispute? Is the biblical flood the earliest evidence of why “technology and water don’t mix”? If you always suspected that mass extinctions, such as the Black Death, had an otherworldly reason, you just might be right. Is there a real message hidden in the mysterious manuscripts that human sages and savants have created through the generations? Is there life out there, beyond our planet, and why has none of it shown up on Earth yet?

Earth-Sim is a unique spin on the history of Earth and the history of mankind. What if Earth and the entire universe were actually part of a simulation program? What if the most iconic and memorable events in Earth’s history were decisions (or more frequently accidents) triggered by two college students, Jem Moran and Kir Davos, who are still sorting out the finer points of working together and more importantly, still arguing over the finer points of planetary management?

Bring your sense of humor. Earth-Sim is frequently whimsical and often irreverent. Either way, you finally have someone to blame for the state the world is in.

chapter

Definition of SIMULATION

1: the act or process of simulating

2: a sham object: counterfeit

3a: the imitative representation of the functioning of one system or process by means of the functioning of another

3b: examination of a problem often not subject to direct experimentation by means of a simulating device

– The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

A roomful of business-suited graduate students could make the most confident undergraduate feel like a gauche freshman again. With poise she did not feel, Jem Moran wove her way to an empty seat and settled into a chair set close to the ground. Neural receptors built into the chair’s synthetic alloy frame analyzed her brain waves; the chair adjusted to her unspoken desires, boosting the seat off the ground and emitting a subtle heat to keep her comfortably acclimated.

Once settled, Jem glanced around. The classroom was one of the smallest on the Itibar University campus, with just enough seats for forty students. She concealed a smirk as a young man scrambled into the room on the heels of Professor Jahn Ptera. At least I’m not the last to arrive.

The remaining seat was at the back of the class, but the professor held out his hand before the student could make a dash for the chair. “Just wait here. We’ll be heading into the simulation laboratory in few minutes anyway.”

Equal measures of excitement and consternation flickered across the faces of her classmates. Jem supposed that the army of drunken butterflies in her stomach could be translated as “consternation.” Personally, she would have classified the sensation as “barely concealed panic.”

The professor, who looked like an old but still dashing movie star, smiled at the many faces staring at him. “Welcome to SIM-709. I’m not unaware of the effort that each of you put in to be accepted for this class, and I want to thank you for your enthusiasm. Make sure you hold on to that feeling. It is a yearlong class. Enthusiasm and energy can fade. Don’t let them; a world depends on you.” He chuckled at his little joke. “I’m transmitting a list of team assignments to your personal devices. Check it out, and find your partners while I get the androids in here.”

Like most communication and data organization devices, Jem’s personal device was built into a metallic band she wore around her wrist and connected to the neural processors implanted in her brain. A single thought summoned the interface; a swirl of colors coalesced in front of her into a palm-sized screen. Another focused thought located the list that the professor had sent.

Jem scanned it quickly. Her name was paired with Kir Davos.

She groaned aloud when she saw the hologram associated with the name of her assigned partner. It was the student who had arrived late for class, and like her, Kir was a senior, the only two in a class full of graduate students.

Damn. They were set up to fail.

She would have to make sure they did not.

Jem did not bother with the name of the android. The androids were all identical anyway, if not in appearance, then at least in function.

A lovely voice, too fluid and cultured to be real, interrupted her thoughts. “Good morning, I am SimOne.”

“Jem Moran.” Jem stood up and nodded, first at the android and then at Kir Davos who stood beside SimOne. The flash of irritation was so familiar that Jem scarcely felt it anymore. She had never understood the business logic of making androids look extraordinary. Why would anyone want to be overshadowed by a machine? Next to SimOne’s long-legged, blond-haired beauty, Jem felt short and plain. The fact that her appearance just then was not her real one was irrelevant; the point was that she liked her spiky brown hair, snub nose, and large brown eyes. Looking ordinary and blending into the crowd were blessings she would never take for granted.

Kir, at least, was as ordinary as she was. He was short, though he still had two inches on her. His dark hair was neatly cropped and his features were unremarkable, save for his bright brown eyes and his enviably long eyelashes.

Her gaze shuttled between Kir and SimOne. They looked back. No one said anything.

Before their silence became awkward, the professor’s voice interjected over the noise of other conversations. “Now that you’ve formed your teams, let’s head into the lab. Once you’re in there, your android will show you the way to your planet.”

The titanium-reinforced double doors in the back of the classroom opened up into the simulation laboratory. Jem followed SimOne into the laboratory and froze when light vanished into the darkness of space. Her jaw dropped, and her eyes were wide with wonder. It was impossible to tell how large the room really was when there were no visible ceilings, floors, or walls by which to measure scale. The simulation extended in all directions around her, even above and below her.

The professor’s disembodied voice spoke though an invisible sound system. “You are supported by an anti-gravity system that will allow you to move freely in three dimensions around the laboratory. The simulation’s central command system is also attuned to your intended destination, and it will condense space to get you to your planets more quickly. Don’t be surprised by the changing scenery. We’ll continue the briefing when you’ve found your planets.”

Jem lost sight of her other classmates as their androids led them in different directions. She followed SimOne, occasionally glancing back to confirm that Kir tagged along. Together, they walked into a spiral galaxy as massive as a storefront display on Coronation Avenue. The lights that swirled tightly around them spun apart as the simulation’s central command system reversed the effects of space condensation. The faint gleam of the small star closest to them expanded into a large yellow star the size of the SIM-709 classroom. Planets churned into existence seemingly out of nothing, although in reality, they were merely emerging from the unpacking of the space-time continuum.

SimOne stopped on the outer edges of the star system. “We are here.”

For all its apparent size, Jem knew that the star system was tiny. She had personally traveled through star systems with four times as many planets and accompanying satellites.

Kir, however, looked impressed. “Are we supposed to manage the entire star system?”

“No, just the third planet.” SimOne stepped past the much larger planets whirling in elliptic orbits around their yellow star and pointed to a small planet the size of a human head. “Identification number 280-934-6253-4726-349573.”

Their assigned planet was less impressive than the star system. The planet’s surface was covered in water, except for a single, large landmass. Jem ground her teeth. They were starting out with nothing.

The professor’s voice spoke again. “All right, the androids confirm you’ve all arrived at your planets, so let’s get started. First, your android is your team’s interface with the simulation’s central command system. The androids will execute the orders you give. Of course, you can also directly manipulate the planet. The planets are real, as are the things on them, so please be very careful. As I’m sure you’re aware, this is a multi-year project. SIM-709 had its inaugural class last year, and those students set things in motion. They determined the laws controlling the universe—you have no idea how long those discussions took—and then each team was assigned a planet to manage. Your android has access to records of the decisions the teams made. I recommend you take the time to review the records.”

The professor paused briefly. “Adan Treb has a question: can we make different decisions? The short answer is ‘yes.’ The longer answer is, ‘this is your world.’ You’re making the decisions now. Within the constraints set by the greater rules of the game, the universe, you can make any decision you want. Just remember that it is a multi-year game. You’d want to have something—preferably alive—to hand off to the next team. By the end of the year, I’d like you to come up with something to call your planet other than its assigned identification number. Any other questions?”

“Can you please explain the rules or goals around the competition?” Jem asked.

There was a barely perceptible lag as SimOne conveyed the question to the central command system, which passed it on to the professor. “Jem Moran had a question about the goal of the competition. It’s both simple and incredibly difficult. Create a world worth living in. You were selected for your depth of knowledge in specific fields or breadth across many fields of study. SIM-709 is where it all comes together—physics, chemistry, biology, geology, mathematics, sociology, philosophy, psychology, the fine arts. The judges are professors from the university as well as experts and leaders in industry. They’ll review your progress throughout the year, and the winners will be announced at the commencement ceremony. Other questions?”

Silence.

“One more thing,” the professor said. “You can directly manipulate your planet, but not other planetary systems or interstellar objects. Put simply, in the event of a planetary war, you cannot stand in front of your planet and swat away alien spaceships. This simulation isn’t a test of your reflexes, though you may think it is. It’s a test of your planetary management skills. All interactions with other planets must be conducted indirectly through the life forms on your own planets, the managers of the other planets, or the central command system. Don’t bother trying to get around that particular rule. The central command system will not permit it.”

Jem rolled her eyes. It was a relief to know that no other team would be able to spin her planet out of orbit and into the yellow star.

The professor’s voice continued. “No other questions? Well, if you need anything, I’m here during the scheduled class sessions, and of course, your android is always available to interface with your world or give you a tour of the universe. Your names have been registered with campus security to provide you with full access to the laboratory at any time. The simulation is going to take more than five credits worth of time each semester, but I’m sure you were already aware of that. Go ahead and get started. Have fun out there.”

Jem swallowed hard. Great. No pressure. SIM-709 was the most prestigious simulation competition on Sylvania, the ruling planet of the Etherian quadrant. She looked at her two partners, Kir and SimOne. “Shall we?”

“I guess so.” Kir shrugged. “So, what do we know about this piece of rock? Well, SimOne?” he asked explicitly, when the android remained silent.

“Forgive me, Kir Davos. You said ‘we.’ I wasn’t aware that you knew anything about this planet, and I didn’t want to speak for you.”

Jem suppressed a chuckle. Androids with attitudes. Who had programmed her?

Kir grinned, too. “What do you know about this planet?”

“It is young relative to other planets in the universe, and has completed four billion revolutions around its star. The planet’s surface consists of liquid and rock. The poles are covered with solid ice or sea ice. The planet’s exterior can be considered stable. However, the planet’s interior remains active. It has a solid inner core made of iron, a liquid outer core, as well as a thick, relatively solid mantle.”

“A liquid core? That doesn’t sound stable to me,” Kir said.

Jem agreed. “There’s probably a fair degree of geological activity. What about the crust? Is it moveable?” Cautiously she poked a finger at the large land mass, and it shifted slightly. Water sloshed over its edges. “It’s definitely not stable. It’s not even attached.”

“It looks like we have our work cut out for us,” Kir said. At least they agreed on that point. “Can you describe the crust, SimOne?”

“It is primarily silicate.”

“Primarily like fifty-one percent or—”

“Ninety percent,” SimOne confirmed.

“So we have silicon-based life forms on this planet?” Kir asked.

“No. The life forms are carbon-based.”

Jem’s eyebrows furrowed. “Wait, the crust is ninety percent silicate, but the life forms are carbon-based?”

“Carbon-based life is more reactive,” Kir interjected before SimOne could reply.

“That would fit with everything we’ve learned about this planet so far, then,” Jem said irritably. “We should just delete the word ‘stable’ from our vocabulary.”

Kir laughed. Somehow, she did not get the sense that he was laughing at her. “Carbon atoms tend to form long chains, making them both stable and reactive, whereas silicon tends to form crystal lattices, making them far less likely to re-combine in different permutations to support life.”

“Are you a carbon chauvinist?” she asked him.

He grinned. “As a carbon-based life form myself, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to you.”

“Chemistry major?”

“Mechanical engineering, then I wised up and switched to the Business school instead.”

“Hmm…”

“Is that a good ‘hmm’ or a bad ‘hmm’?”

Jem smiled thinly. “We’ll have an entire year to find out. I’m majoring in Biology and Philosophy.”

“Hmm…” Kir took on an air of studied thoughtfulness. “I’m a little afraid for our world now.”

“Great. You’re catching on. I became afraid for it ten minutes ago. Zero stability.”

“Change is a good thing. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

“Dying counts as change too,” Jem pointed out.

“Fair point.” Kir looked at the android. “How are you getting information out of the planet? Do you have sensors implanted?”

“Yes, we do.” SimOne held out her hand. From the base of her palm, light emerged and took on the form of a gelatinous circular mass with long, trailing tentacles. It shimmered, pale and translucent, undulating with unnatural grace.

“Cnidarians?” Jem’s eyes widened. “You implanted Cnidarian sensors on the planet?”

The android inclined her head, the gesture stately. “Zaaf Farron made that decision last year. Given the abundance of water on the planet, Cnidarian sensors appeared to be the most viable strategy for monitoring the planet.”

“But what about the landmass?” Jem asked.

“Blattodea sensors.” The light flickered and the image of the Cnidarian sensor gave way to a much less enchanting picture. Six tri-segmented legs, each ending in five claws, supported a broad, flat body, a small head, and most importantly, two long and quivering antenna. The Blattodea sensor spread its wings to display a set of membranous hind wings beneath the protective layer of its thicker front wings.

Jem sighed, more motion than sound.

“Bad news?” Kir asked.

“It could be better. The Cnidarian sensors will be probably be all right, but Blattodea sensors tend to be more trouble than they’re worth. They’re incredibly hardy though, which—given the instability of the planet—is a huge point in their favor. SimOne, can you please send the archives of the planet’s activity and sensor reports to me?”

“Transmitting.”

Kir did not ask for the planet’s archives, which did not bode well. Jem tried to keep her voice even. “What kind of life forms are on the planet right now, SimOne?”

“There are limited forms of flora, marine, and terrestrial fauna. Would you like me to transmit the information to you as well, Kir Davos?”

He shook his head. “Not yet, and it’s just ‘Kir.’ I’m surprised the planet didn’t progress further in four billion revolutions. I’d have expected a great deal more bio-diversity.”

Jem did, too. A hard knot formed in the pit of her stomach. “Did something happen recently, SimOne?”

“Yes, Jem Moran. Summer vacation happened. The planet was unmonitored for three months. I am sorry to report that ninety-six percent of all marine species and seventy percent of terrestrial vertebrate species are now extinct. Fifty-seven percent of all families and eighty-three percent of all genera were killed, including the only known mass extinction of insects to date.”

A stunned silence followed SimOne’s announcement. Jem dragged a hand through her short, dark hair. “We lost everything?”

“No. Four percent of the marine species and thirty percent of terrestrial vertebrate species survived.”

“I can do the math, SimOne,” Jem said with exasperation as she stared at the ruined planet. “Damn it. This is a piece of crap.”

“The mother of all mass extinctions,” Kir added softly.

Jem squeezed her eyes shut against the tension headache clawing through her skull. “The judges better take into account where the planet started off in the new school year or we’ll never stand a chance of winning this competition.”

“At least everything after this will be an improvement.” Kir grinned.

It had better. Jem shook her head. “I’m going to read through these reports. We’ll need to come up with a plan by tomorrow, or we’ll never be able to reverse this planet off its suicidal path.”

“I’m guessing it’s not as bad as it looks,” Kir said. “SimOne, has the planet gone through other mass extinctions?”

“Yes, but none as severe as the most recent.”

“It’ll probably recover, then,” Kir said.

“On little more than a hope and a prayer?” Jem asked. “Not very likely. We’re going to need a plan, Kir.”

He nodded amiably. “Right.”

He still had not asked for the archives. Were facts going to feature in his plan at all? Jem turned to look at SimOne. “What actually caused the mass extinction, other than neglect over the summer vacation?”

“The causes are inter-related. Volcanism, methane hydrate gasification, sea level fluctuations, anoxia, and hydrogen sulfide emissions.”

“What’s that in a language we actually understand?” Kir asked.

SimOne continued without missing a beat. “Volcanic eruptions, including flood basalt eruptions over an area of two million kilometers, resulted in dust clouds and acid aerosols. The dust clouds subsequently blocked the light from their star, disrupting photosynthesis and destroying the food chain. The aerosols washed out of the atmosphere in the form of acid rain, destroying land-based flora and fauna with calcium carbonate exoskeletons. The eruptions also released carbon dioxide, resulting in rising temperatures.”

“Global warming?”

“That is an appropriate descriptor, Kir,” SimOne said.

“What else?” Jem demanded. The headache was unavoidable at this point. The only question was whether it would escalate into a migraine.

“There’s more?” Kir asked, a note of disbelief seeping into his voice.

The android continued. “The oceans became anoxic.”

“Anoxic?”

“Severely depleted of oxygen. The anaerobic sulfur-reducing organisms then dominated the chemistry of the oceans, causing massive emissions of hydrogen sulfide.”

“That would be toxic, right?” Kir asked.

“That is correct,” SimOne said.

In essence, it had been the perfect storm.

Jem sighed. “Life on this planet is so fragile.” She looked up when Kir chuckled; he wore an expression of wide-eyed innocence.

“If we had silicon-based life forms instead, they might have…” Kir’s face relaxed into a grin when she scowled at him. He chuckled again, his brown eyes crinkling at the edges. “Never mind.”

“Very funny, Davos.”

“Then why aren’t you laughing?”

“Because I’m still wondering if I should cry. Can’t you see? This planet is a wreck.”

“Yes, but it’s our wreck.”

She turned her back on him.

He rushed after her as she stormed out of the laboratory. “Okay, all right. It was a bad joke. I’m sorry.”

She blinked sharply, recoiling from the bright lights in the classroom as the darkness of the universe peeled back from around her. She shrugged off his hand and glowered at him.

He immediately held his arms up in a placating gesture. “I’m just trying to add a bit of levity to the situation”

“Your levity is misplaced. Let me tell you something, Davos.”

“It’s Kir.”

“I only call my friends by their first names. Listen carefully. I am only going to say this once. The competition is everything to me. I intend to win it. I’ll do it with or without you, but I’d much rather do it with your help. Take it seriously, please.” She waited, meeting his eyes directly.

After a long pause, he nodded. His voice was quiet. “All right. I get it. You want to win.”

It was not until he had left her alone in the classroom that she realized that he had not actually said if he would help or if he would just be a burden for the entire year.

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Coming Soon – ZARA by Jade Kerrion

My friend Jade Kerrion has a new book coming soon.  Zara who is one of the characters from the Double Helix series and is also one of my favourites.  Jade has given you the First Chapter to give you a taste.  You can pre-order this book that will be out in October and in the meantime start with Perfection Unleashed.

Sneak Preview – ZARA

Coming to you on October 27th

ZARA’s always been one of my favorite characters from the world of the Double Helix, and she finally gets her own story. Located between Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, her story traces the evolution of her feelings for Danyael even as she creates her own brand of mayhem (hey, it’s Zara, after all.)

ZARA will be released on October 27th. In fact, the e-books are available for pre-order at: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks. Paperbacks will be available on October 27th.

chapter

No one ever expected to die in the happiest place on Earth, which, to Zara Itani, made Disneyland, California, the perfect place for a kill.
Her seat near the window gave her a clear view of the street. At the first hint of dusk, ornate street lamps flickered on. Storefront windows bathed their wares with light to lure in the crowd bustling through New Orleans Square. Parents pushed strollers occupied by sleeping toddlers and dragged along their tired children. Couples, sometimes hand-in-hand, though more often not, paused in front of the French Quarter-style buildings to stare at their maps, often oblivious to potted bougainvillea sitting on the ornate ironwork balconies above their heads.
At the end of a long day, even the magic of Disneyland could fade, but within Club 33, all was still well with the world.
The complex tangle of music from the saxophone rose over the syncopated bass drum patter. Both blended with the quiet clink of silverware against china dishes and muted conversations punctuated with polite laughter. Wait staff wearing white shirts accentuated by teal and gold brocade vests moved among the tables, providing impeccable yet unpretentious service.
“You haven’t tasted your wine, Zara. Is it not to your liking?”
With a smile, Zara turned back to her dining partner. Alastair Boyd-Smith wore a faint frown, but the anxious set of his eyes betrayed a desperate desire to please. He was a lesser son of greater men, the fifth in line to an earldom in England. With blond hair and pale eyes, he was too fair for her liking. She was too dark for his, yet she knew precisely why he had invited her to dinner at the ultra-exclusive Club 33.
When he looked at her, Boyd-Smith did not just see a young Lebanese-Venezuelan woman, more exotic than beautiful. He saw instead the glamorous socialite who had graced the arms of Lucien Winter, heir to the multibillion-dollar Winter fortune, and Galahad, the perfect human being, created by Pioneer Labs.
Zara’s stock in trade, already high as Lucien’s ex-girlfriend, had risen yet higher with Galahad. Women envied her. Men craved her.
She was sparing, however, with her affection. Alastair she had selected for a specific purpose—a purpose that would soon play out. Her smile deepened as she traced her finger around the rim of her wineglass. Her blood-red fingernails gleamed beneath the glow of the candlelight.
“I’m sure the wine is wonderful, Alastair, but it wouldn’t do to drink on an empty stomach when my head’s already spinning.” Her voice, sultry and faintly accented, resonated like a siren’s song.
Alastair grinned, obviously responding as much to her tone as to her words. Oh, how he reminded her of an overeager puppy. Willpower kept her from laughing. “I expect the appetizers will be here soon,” she said. “Please excuse me; I need to go to the ladies room.”
She stood and made her way through the restaurant. As she passed a table, a Japanese man stopped her by placing his hand in her way. She tilted her head and studied him. The cold, narrow eyes and thin smile belonged on a much older man. His face, however, was unlined. If he smiled, he could be handsome.
“You are stunning.” His voice resonated with a confidence and authority that Alastair lacked. He pulled a white rose from the vase on the table and handed it to her.
“Thank you.” She accepted the rose, inhaled its fragrance, and brushed her lips against it. Her crimson lipstick stained its white petals. With a teasing smile, she reached down and brushed the rose against his lips. The back of her fingers grazed his cheek.
The voracious need in his eyes devoured her as he licked the faint smear of lipstick that transferred from the petals to his lips. His cocky expression promised her a world of pleasure and a life of privilege that would exceed anything her pasty English date could offer her.
He was, no doubt, right, but Zara offered him a rueful parting glance before continuing on her way to the restroom. She locked herself in a stall and set the rose on the floor, its lipstick-smeared petal facing up. She pulled a pair of biodegradable silicon-carbon polymer gloves from her handbag and slid them over her hands. Next, she took out a perfume atomizer and spritzed it over the rose. Carefully, she peeled the thin layers of polymer off her upper and lower lips and sprayed the contents of the atomizer over them as well as the fingertips of the gloves.
Zara counted down ten seconds for the chemicals in the atomizer to counteract the toxins before dropping the lip peels and gloves into the toilet bowl. The rose petals followed. A flush disposed of all evidence.
Simple. Too simple.
Something fluttered in the pit of her stomach.
Not nerves surely, although wearing the poison on her lips was foolhardy to the point of insanity, as was gambling on Kaito Masura’s habit of spontaneously offering flowers to attractive women.
Then again, Zara was nothing if not a risk-taker.
The atomizer went back into her handbag. She stepped out of the stall, reapplied her lipstick, smoothed her navy blue dress, and returned to her seat, weaving a different route through the tables.
Alastair was pouting. He had obviously witnessed her flirtatious exchange with Kaito. To make it up to him—after all, she would have had trouble entering Club 33 and gaining access to Kaito if not for him—Zara paid Alastair special attention through dinner. By the time their Kobe Carpaccio appetizers were eaten, he had forgotten the slight to his ego. Midway through his Moroccan spiced lamb entree, Alastair, blushing shyly, invited Zara to his ancestral home to meet his parents. She promised to consider his invitation; she was not scheduled to break his heart until the next day.
Moments after the waitress brought out their Strawberries Arnaud dessert, Kaito Masura, the kumicho of the Chinatsu-gumi yakuza and a platinum member of Club 33, collapsed from an apparent heart attack. The emergency medical technicians could not revive him. He was declared dead by the time the club manager began his rounds, assuring distressed diners that their evening meals would be complimentary to compensate for the inconvenience. The manager wrung his hands, his stricken gaze shuttling between Zara and Alastair. Was there anything else he could do for them?
Zara held on to the expression of wide-eyed shock and shook her head. He had done enough. Disney’s near-fanatical desire to avoid bad publicity would ensure that Masura’s “heart attack” would not make the morning news. She could not ask for more.
She bid Alastair goodnight in the parking lot and drove her rental car, a red Corvette, back to the Hotel Bel-Air. Her leisurely drive through Los Angeles’s familiar streets was ruined only by the occasional flutter in her stomach. It was ridiculous to be nervous. She had nothing to be concerned about. The kill was clean, untraceable.
She pulled into the curved driveway of the Hotel Bel-Air. A uniformed valet opened her car door and inclined his head as she stepped out. “Welcome back, Miss Itani.”
“Thank you, Jason.” She smiled at him. The subtly foreign inflections that had so charmed Alastair conceded to her natural American accent. Her hand trailed along the Corvette’s sleek lines. “Take good care of her.”
“Certainly, Miss Itani.”
Her smartphone rang as she had stepped into her suite and locked the door behind her. She glanced at the number before accepting the international call from Japan. “Good morning, Ayame-san.”
A well-modulated woman’s voice responded with a faint Japanese accent. “It is a beautiful morning, Zara-san. We have just received word of the misfortune that has befallen Chinatsu-gumi. On behalf of my father, I convey the deep gratitude of Isamu-gumi.”
“You are most welcome. I am honored to be a friend of Kazuo-san and the Isamu-gumi.”
“Your fee has been transferred to your account in Switzerland. Domo arigatou gozaimasu.”
Dou itashi mashite.
“The next time you are in Tokyo, we would be honored if you would visit us.”
Zara heard a smile in Ayame’s voice. She smiled too. “I would be pleased to do so. How is your son?”
“Oh.” Ayame’s voice softened. “He is six and a half weeks old, and perfect. So talkative. And Nikolai has been a wonderful father.”
“The yakuza are not giving you a hard time over marrying a gaijin and bearing his son?”
“Not when he can shoot faster and more accurately than they can.”
Zara laughed. She and Ayame spoke for several more minutes before exchanging goodbyes. She tossed the phone down on her bed, her thoughts still on her friend. Ayame had come a long way since their first meeting as freshmen at Princeton. In the ten years since, the quiet and unassuming Japanese girl had gone on to manage her father’s manufacturing business and his yakuza gang. She had married Nikolai Voronov, a former employee of Zara’s mercenary agency, Three Fates, and she was now the mother of a chubby and adorable child—a child who would likely grow up to become a key player in the world of Japanese organized crime.
Zara shook her head. Ayame’s son’s fate had been determined before he was born. As a non-believer in destiny, Zara found the thought mildly discouraging, at best, and hugely depressing, at worst. She kicked off her high heels and walked barefoot onto the patio. Darkness concealed the canyon views, but underwater spotlights lit the spa pool. The water sparkled, lapping gently against the sides of the pool. She dipped in a toe. The night air was cool but the water was still warm, sun-kissed from a long summer’s day.
     Perfect.
She tugged off her dress, shed her black lace lingerie, and stepped into the pool. She sank into the water up to her neck, closed her eyes, and allowed her mind to drift. Her thoughts wandered, as they almost always did, to Danyael Sabre. Had he been released from solitary confinement? Was he all right?
She ground her teeth. What an absurd question. Of course, Danyael was not all right, although solitary confinement likely suited him perfectly. He did not want emotional ties. He wanted to be alone. Well, now he was. Bastard.
Perhaps it was time to make another visit to Colorado, to the super maximum-security prison, ADX Florence. She had visited twice before, but both times, the guards had turned her away. No one had seen Danyael since he had been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
He had been locked away without trial for killing twelve men in self-defense.
No, it had not all been self-defense. Ten of the twelve men he had killed to defend her.
Guilt pricked her. She wanted to see him. Her inadequate apology for betraying him would catch on her lips, but she wanted to see him again.
She supposed she could change her flight and make a stop at ADX Florence.
Her stomach fluttered. Was it indigestion or nerves? Either way, it was getting annoying. When had it started? A week ago? A week and a half, perhaps.
Zara climbed out of the pool, wrapped a towel around her body, and returned to her suite. She picked up her smartphone and called her assistant.
“Hello?” Karen Alder sounded half-asleep. It was past midnight on the east coast.
“I need you to change my flight tomorrow. I’ll be making an overnight stop in Colorado Springs on the way back.”
“Got it.” Karen yawned. “Colorado Springs Airport. Hotel and rental car?”
“Yes.”
“Which identity do you want to use?”
“Just mine. It’s fine.”
“No one’s scheduled to die, huh? Okay, on it. Oh, your annual medical report came back from Dr. Tyler.”
“Hmm?”
“His e-mail said that everything looks good. He said something odd, though. He asked if you wanted him to send your medical report to your ob-gyn.”
“What for?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say. Did you want me to ask?”
The chill Zara felt had nothing to do with the air conditioning. “No, I’ll take care of it. Is the e-mail still in my inbox?”
“Yup.”
She hung up. Damn it.
She found what she needed in the twenty-four-hour pharmacy around the corner. Her heart raced but her hands were steady. She followed the instructions but hardly needed to wait. Double lines appeared on the pregnancy test kit immediately.
Her breath caught. “Fuck.”

~*~

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of ZARA. If you’d like to pre-order ZARA, you can find it at: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks.

With love, Jade

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First Chapter – Perfect Betrayal by Jade Kerrion

Today’s First Chapter is from Perfect Betrayal, Book 2 in the Double Helix series by my friend Jade Kerrion.  This is a fantastic series.

Perfect BetrayalDESCRIPTION

You can defeat your enemies, but can you defeat your friends?

Danyael Sabre, an object of desire, would much rather not be. An alpha empath by birth, a doctor by training, and an empathic healer by calling, he is stalked by the military that covets his ability to kill, not heal. Bereft of two days of memories, he goes on the run under the protection of an assassin, Zara Itani.

The more he uncovers of his lost hours, the more he doubts everything that once anchored him. He knows only that he endangers those around him and that he is falling in love with Zara, who hates him for reasons he no longer remembers.

As forces—both powerful and ruthless—threaten those he cares for, Danyael has only two options. He can betray his values and abandon the path of the healer, or he can wait to be betrayed, not by enemies, but by his friends.

PERFECT BETRAYAL is the second novel in the award-winning Double Helix series.

chapter

 

Danyael Sabre fought a losing battle against fatigue and the wet chill of a New York winter storm. As the minutes ticked by slowly, he slipped past extreme exhaustion into mindless automation. The neighborhood deteriorated, the deeper he traveled into Brooklyn. The icy drizzle could not mask or wash away the stench of cheap alcohol and urine in the streets. He paused at the pollution-stained façade of an apartment complex. It was a welcome sight; home, at last.

Danyael unlocked the door of his apartment, slipped in, and quietly shut it behind him. He leaned his head against the door and closed his eyes. His shoulders sagged. He was alone; he could relax. With a soft sigh, he lowered his psychic shields. The suffocating weight of emotions he did not understand and could not remember flowed out of him.

A woman’s shriek of panic ripped through the silence of the apartment and shattered his lethargy. His dark eyes flashed open. I’m not alone!

She hurled herself at him. Instinctively, he caught her wrists as she clawed at his face. The swirl of long dark hair, swaying wildly, concealed most of her face, but he caught a glimpse of unreasoning terror in her eyes, terror he had put in there.

He struggled to contain the emotions he had released. The effort plowed through him, a punch to his stomach. It tore the breath out of his lungs. He convulsed, doubling over, the strain too much for a body pushed to its limits. His grip on her wrists loosened. She lunged away from him and raced to the kitchen.

“No, wait.” He grabbed her before her fingers wrapped around the hilt of the knife in the drying rack. His empathic powers surged, irresistible as the tides. They snaked, graceful tendrils of living vines, through her psyche and siphoned out the emotions he had unwittingly forced on her. To his relief, rationality seeped into her wide violet eyes. He started to ask if she was all right, but before he could utter a single word, scorching pain ripped down his spine.

Only his training suppressed the scream of agony. He flung himself away from her and crashed into the sink. Violent shudders wracked his body. He gripped hard on the countertop to brace against the spasms of pain.

What the hell?

He gritted his teeth and tasted blood in his mouth. He had not been prepared for her roiling emotions. Targeted at him, her emotions sliced through his defenses with devastating precision, anger and hate, vitally alive, scalding hot. They flared when he touched them, punished him when he tried to absorb them from her. He had to work through them. There was no other way. The alternative—returning the emotions to her—was not an option.

His eyes closed. Trembling, he focused on each breath burning in his lungs. As he shakily exhaled, he unclenched his fists. Release the pain.

Most of the time, the technique worked flawlessly. He had years of practice.

That day, it nearly didn’t.

Minutes passed before the red haze of pain obscuring his vision thinned and eventually wafted away. He looked up to find her staring steadily at him, the passion and fury he had briefly witnessed now perfectly regulated beneath an icy-cold façade.

“Are you all right?” he asked hoarsely.

Her eyes narrowed. She tilted her head but did not answer. She merely looked at him as if he were insane for asking the question.

“Are you all right?” Danyael asked again. He leaned against the old fridge. His quiet tone concealed his exhaustion. A quick empathic probe confirmed she was calm and rational, but her lack of response worried him. He thought he had reabsorbed the poisonous brew of his emotions before they sank into her psyche, but perhaps he had not been fast enough. Had he hurt her?

“I’m sorry. I know you’ve had a shock. Would you like to sit?” He paused; the aloof distance in her demeanor caused him to hesitate. He tried for a smile, though fatigue limited it to a faint curve on the edges of his lips. “I’m Danyael Sabre.”

“Zara.” Her answer was brusque. She did not offer a last name.

The name toyed on the edge of his consciousness, as if he had heard it before, but he was certain he did not know her. There was no way he could have forgotten someone as attractive as she was.

His mind mocked him. Who was to say what he could have forgotten? After all, he had no memories of the prior two days.

He crushed the flicker of panic as he focused on what little he could still handle. Danyael averted his gaze as his mind chased a fleeting memory from years past. Lucien and Zara. “Zara…Itani,” he murmured as the memory sharpened. He glanced at her. “You’re Lucien’s friend.”

She nodded.

“What are you doing here? How did you get into my apartment?”

“I picked the lock.” Zara pushed away from the wall and walked past him to sit at the table. She crossed her legs gracefully, hooking one ankle behind the other. “What do you remember?”

He tensed; without memories, he had to play it safe. “Nothing.” His tone was carefully neutral.

“What took you so bloody long to get back here? I know the plane landed twelve hours ago.”

“It’s a long way from Teterboro, New Jersey.”

“It’s an hour away.”

He glanced at the digital clock on the microwave oven. “It took eight hours to walk, and I had a late start.”

She frowned. “You walked?”

Without probing, he could not tell if her reaction stemmed from annoyance or incredulity, and he was too tired to keep probing. Somewhere, somehow, he had lost his wallet, leaving him with no means of paying for transportation, but there was no point in explaining. Something in her cool eyes made him feel like a fool for trying; she had already judged him and found him wanting.

Damn it, why? Questions pounded through his mind, but he had no answers. He shook his head and stepped away from the refrigerator. He needed food as badly as he needed rest, but he was too tired to eat and too hungry to sleep. He yanked open the refrigerator door, removed a loaf of bread, spread a thin layer of butter over two slices of bread, and placed them in the toaster oven. He pushed on the tiny lever and turned to her. “Would you like something for breakfast?”

“There’s nothing in there I want.”

That was just as well. The little food he had in his apartment would have to last until he replaced his driver’s license, credit cards, and ATM cards. The toaster oven pinged softly. He removed the slices of bread from the toaster oven and placed them on a plate. He would have joined her at the table, but his empathic senses warned him to keep his distance. A woman’s bad mood was more trouble than he needed at that time. Instead, he stood by the kitchen counter and ate his breakfast, washing it down with tap water. Some of the tension eased out of his shoulders as the grinding pain in his stomach slowly dissipated.

Rest would help too, though most of his tension had nothing to do with the lack of food or rest. He would have to deal with the churning madness of emotions he could not understand. He would come to terms with them, likely neither gracefully nor well, but he would survive. He was almost certain of it.

His meager meal completed, he rinsed the plate, placed it in the drying rack, and turned to face her. He met her coolly assessing gaze. How can you find me wanting when you don’t even know me, he wanted to ask, but with two days of missing memories, he could not assume anything anymore. Considering the intensity of her anger, he suspected that the better question was How badly did I piss you off?

An ironic smile curved his lips. Getting off on a rotten start with someone he found compelling was unfortunate. She was beautiful. Long, dark hair framed large violet eyes, a slender nose, and sultry mouth. Her skin was the color of a golden dusk and smooth as silk. Physical beauty was incidental, though. He was personally acquainted with the curse of abundant physical beauty and knew not to place any weight on the appearance of the fragile mortal shell.

Instead, he studied her through the eyes of an alpha empath. His breath caught in his throat. Zara was more than beautiful. She was dazzling. Her emotional spectrum danced in a rainbow of cascading sparkles. Complex patterns swirled light with darkness to create art, both subtle and bold. He could never tire of looking at Zara.

“What do you remember?” she asked again.

“Nothing.”

“You must remember something.”

“I don’t. And I don’t want to.” He looked away. That was the right answer, the safe answer, until he figured out what was going on.

“Don’t want to?” Her fingernails tapped an impatient rhythm on the table.

“My memories were taken for a reason. I don’t want them back.”

“That’s it? Someone rips out your memories, steals days from your life, and you just shrug and walk away?”

A muscle twitched in his smooth cheek. If only she knew how accurately she had described it. Ripping was an accurate—albeit tame—way of categorizing the gut-wrenching agony of losing memories. He could not remember what he had lost, but he could remember the process of losing them. That particular memory expelled a sly lick of nausea that coated his throat and made it hard to breathe.

Two days. What could have happened in those two days? He had enjoyed the benevolent protection of the Mutant Affairs Council for sixteen years. Would he challenge their decision now? Did he dare? “I trust the council,” he said simply.

“I thought you were stupid. Now I know you’re also incredibly naïve. You trust the council?”

Did he? Danyael could not meet her penetrating gaze. Was he denying the truth or bracing for a lie? He was not certain. “I—”

“Stupid, naïve and scared.”

His eyes narrowed. Her emotions seemed rooted in more than just the repulsive effect of his psychic shields. “Where does this blanket hatred of me come from?”

“From those memories you’re running away from,” she responded sweetly.

He dragged his left hand through his hair. The conversation was pointless. “I need to rest.”

“Go for it.” She did not move from the chair.

“I need privacy. I can find you a hotel room in Manhattan.”

She shook her head. “It’s not happening.”

“I need to rest, and to do that, I need to be alone.”

“You need to be alive.” Zara pushed away from the chair and strode toward him. Her deadly lope reminded him of a stalking tiger. “You have no memories, so trust me on this one. You’re in deep shit, and no amount of posturing or saying that you remember nothing is going to get you out of it.”

Her words chilled him. She hated him, but equally—and oddly—he sensed her genuine commitment to keeping him alive. In spite of how rough the past few hours had been, he was not ready to give up on life yet.

Trust. If he could not trust his instincts, what could he trust?

Danyael stepped out in faith. He met her gaze and released his breath unsteadily. “Fine,” he said. “Do you need to use the restroom?”

Confusion replaced the cold fire in her gaze. “No.”

“All right. If you need it, knock and wait for me to respond before you come in.”

“You’re going to sleep in the bathroom?”

He threw a quick glance around the small studio apartment. “There’s nowhere else private here.” He shrugged helplessly. There was no way to explain without giving himself away. “I need to be alone.”

“I know you’re a mutant.”

At least her answer explained some of her feelings toward him. “Thank you for saving me the trouble of explaining.”

He stepped into the bathroom, closed the door behind him, and shrugged out of his jacket. The leather was old and soft; he could use it as a pillow. The bathroom floor was not long enough for him to stretch out, but he was tired enough that it would not matter. He lay down, inhaled deeply, and carefully lowered his psychic shields as he breathed out.

The tightness in his jaw relaxed slightly. The tension around his neck and shoulders eased subtly. So many questions were left unanswered, but none mattered then. His eyes fluttered closed as fatigue dragged him down to sleep.

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