Spotlight: The Beast of London by L.D. Goffigan

Today we’re featuring The Beast of London, book one of The Mina Murray series, by author L.D. Goffigan. This book sounds like something I would really enjoy and I really wanted to review it but I just don’t have enough time right now. I already ordered my copy though so hopefully I’ll get to it soon.

Check out that gorgeous cover! Read more about the book and find out how you can get your hands on a copy!

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Review of Insidious by Victoria Evers (Blog Tour and Giveaway)

Today we’re featuring Insidious, Book 1 of The Marked Mage Chronicles by Victoria Evers! I don’t usually feature romance on this blog but when I read the blurb for Insidious I thought it was intriguing.

Read on to know more about the book and check out my review! You can also read an excerpt if you’re curious! Of course, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win an Amazon gift card!
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Are You Looking for Halloween Reads? Get into the Paranormal Bar & Grille Tour! (Giveaway)

It’s the perfect time for some spooky or scary reading, right? If you’re looking for something to read this season, check out these five paranormal books we’re featuring today!

Welcome to the Paranormal Bar & Grille Blog Tour!

…where you can rub elbows with everyone from a gargoyle or vampire, to a creature from urban legend, or the ghostly realms of myth. Step up to the bar, grab a booth. You never know what’s on the menu, or if you might end up there yourself.

Sound like your kind of hangout? Then you’ve come to the right place. We’re a group of five authors who love nothing more than to trigger the chill that crawls up your back, the nervous glance tossed over your shoulder. We invite you to discover outstanding books and check out our awesome tour prizes.

Just be careful of what the bartender serves you. That heady brew may not be a beer, and witches can’t be trusted to provide effective antidotes.

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Review: UNCommon Bodies (An Anthology) plus a Giveaway!

UNCommon Bodies is out today! UnCommon Bodies is a collection of stories curated by Pavarti K. Tyler that span across genres to explore the lives of the odd, the unbelievable, and the impossible.

I was so intrigued by the stories included in this collection that I just couldn’t pass up the chance to read it. One story in particular reeled me in: Skin by Brent Meske: After constant bullying in high school, Patricia vows to change her name and her entire being. When she gains the ability to mold and sculpt flesh, that vow very quickly becomes a terrifying reality. Now isn’t that something?

Read on to know more about this awesome collection of stories and check out my review. Of course, don’t forget to enter the giveaway, too. :)

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Spotlight & $100 Amazon Giveaway: I Can See You by Joss Landry

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I Can See You Blog Tour (Jul 28 – Aug 22)

I thought this book had an interesting story, that’s why I agreed to help out in the blog tour and host a guest post by the author. Check out the book and the guest post, and enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win $100 Amazon Gift Card or $25 Amazon Gift Card.

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Blog Tour: Beyond The Pale (A Fantasy and Paranormal YA Anthology)

BeyondThePale-coverWhen I received the invite for this blog tour, I just couldn’t resist. A fantasy anthology of short stories by bestselling writers the likes of Jim Butcher and Kami Garcia? Hellsyeah.

Today we have a guest post, “Prose Lessons by the Pros,” by the editor Henry Herz. If you’re a writer or want to be one, you have got to read this post. It’s chockfull of helpful tips! Also, check out an excerpt from one of the stories, The Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle.

About the book

Beyond the Pale contains eleven fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal short stories by award-winning and NY Times bestselling authors Saladin Ahmed (Throne of the Crescent Moon), Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), Heather Brewer (Vladimir Tod), Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures), Nancy Holder (Wicked), Gillian Philip (Rebel Angels), and Jane Yolen (Owl Moon).

Get this book on Amazon. Add this book on Goodreads.

For more about the anthology or to pre-order the book, visit Birch Tree Publishing.

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Shudder (#2, Stitch Trilogy) by Samantha Durante

Today we’re featuring Shudder, the second book in the Stitch Trilogy by Samantha Durante. Read more about this new installment and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a print ARC of Shudder (open worldwide)!

It’s only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa’s life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she’d counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meager remains of a ravaged world. And if she’d thought she’d tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she’s discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.

The memory-altering “stitch” unlocked something in Alessa’s mind, and now she can’t shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers – and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world’s sorry history – will soon leave Alessa reeling…

The second installment in the electrifying Stitch Trilogy, Shudder follows Samantha Durante’s shocking and innovative debut with a heart-pounding, paranormal-dusted dystopian adventure sure to keep the pages turning.

Samantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. Stitch is her first novel. Learn more about Samantha at www.samanthadurante.com.

Enter the Giveaway HERE!!!

Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Prescription for Delirium (Van Helsing Organization #1) by Noree Cosper

Please enjoy this guest post (titled Voodoo vs Hoodoo) by author Noreen Cosper and read an excerpt from her new release A Prescription for Delirium (Van Helsing Organization #1).

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway on this blog! :)

About the book

Ninety years ago, Gabriella di Luca promised to protect the family of her dying lover. She failed to keep that promise. She was too far away to stop the devil that murdered the eldest Van Helsing son. Years later, Gabby learns the devil has resurfaced. She arrives in Hampton, TX, determined to stop the devil before it can lay a bloody hand on the remaining three brothers.

However, madness is spreading through Hampton. She suspects the devil is using this madness to test a drug which has a side effect of demonic possession. Gabby rushes to end the source of the madness only to fall victim to it. For a woman cursed with eternal life, dying is no threat. However, Gabby must stop the devil’s plot or risk losing her most precious possession: her mind.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

 

Guest Post

Voodoo vs Hoodoo

by Noree Cosper

Little burlap dolls, black candles, whispered chants. These are some of the images that come to mind when Voodoo or Hoodoo is mentioned.  Many believe that Hoodoo and Voodoo are the same. Both have roots in Africa and are made up of mixed beliefs including pagan traditions, ancient worship, and elements of European religions. Though they have several similarities, they are really different.

In actuality, Voodoo is an actual religion and institution with established practices like religious leaders, teaching, and services or rituals. Voodoo invokes the power of the loas (spirits), the African gods and, deities. It is not connected to any other religion. The specific term for a Voodoo practitioner is a Vodouisant. Voodoo is not just a religion but a culture and a way of life.

Hoodoo, on the other hand, adheres to no organized religion and is considered folk magic. In fact, practitioners use both the loas and the religious saints of Catholicism as well as spiritualism. Hoodoo actually developed because those who practiced wanted to hide its African origins. Most of the population, who was largely Christian, considered the worship pagan and therefore bad. Practitioners see Hoodoo as a sort of personal power. The magic is based on inclinations, desires, interests, and habits. They access the loas, gods, and other supernatural forces in order to bring changes, good or ill, in peoples’ lives. It focuses on the magic and the benefits it can bring.

So, in short, Voodoo is a way of life while Hoodoo can be more of a hobby.

Giveaway

One random commenter on this blog will win an e-book copy of A Prescription for Delirium! Just leave a comment and way for me to contact you. This giveaway will run for the entire duration of the tour.

There is also a tour-wide giveaway for a printed copy of the book plus swag! Visit the tour page to enter.

About the Author

Noree Cosper loves writing about magic in the modern world. While growing up in Texas she constantly searched for mystical elements in the mundane. She buried her nose in both fiction and books about Wicca, Religion, and Mythology. Everyday became an adventure as she joined a group of role-players, acting out her fantasies of vampires, demons, and monsters living in the world. She embraced her nerdom wholeheartedly. Noree grew, but never left her love for fantasy and horror. Her dreams pushed her and her hand itched to write the visions she saw. So, with her fingers on the keys, she did what her heart had been telling her to do since childhood. She wrote.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Hampton, TX, Present Day
Not five minutes in this backwater town and I had a demon sniffing my trail. He scanned the room with the nostrils of his wide nose flaring. His hair lay plastered against his forehead in greasy brown locks. He towered over everyone, even the people standing, as he squeezed between the large round tables and the gathering at the bar. The frayed threads of his jeans and his leather vest matched the dress of the rest of the roadhouse.

I lifted my drink to my mouth and shifted to my second sight. Most people say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Those people can’t see auras. The lights on the walls dimmed, and the air took on a gray haze, like seeing things under water. Colors bloomed out from each human in the building, blending together in a rainbow. The demon was another matter.

The shaggy black dog the size of a pony stood semi-imposed on all fours over the form of the man. Flames blazed from its eyes as it scanned the room. Was there really a dog walking through a busy Texas bar? No. Demons had no corporeal form and had to possess physical bodies. This one chose a werewolf. Dio, I had a hellhound on my ass.

Talk about bad timing. Ose already had some of his minions patrolling. If it found me, it would go running to its master to let him know I was in town. My hunt was in danger of ending before it even started.

Breathe, Gabby.

I leaned forward and let my black curtain of hair obscure my face. The lid of the salt shaker twisted off in my empty hand and I knocked it over, allowing the grains to spill on the floor. The salt should cover my scent. I slid closer to the group at the next table until I looked like I belonged with them.

One of the men grinned at me, his aura a happy yellow orange. “Hey babe.”

I nodded and raised my glass, but kept my gaze on the hellhound. He paused at a man at the bar who had caught my attention, or more his aura did. A ghostly image of a woman leaned over him, whispering in his ear. My hand tightened around the beer mug, but the mutt moved on. I relaxed. The colors around the people in the bar faded, as did the ghost woman when my sight returned to normal. The haze remained, more from cigarette smoke. I turned my head to the front of the bar. One window and one door were not much of an escape route. Fifty feet of inebriated patrons stood between me and freedom.

Two of the three men I had been waiting for walked through the door. A familiar tingle ran down my spine. For a moment, I flashed back to a dressing room, staring down another Romanian hunter. We’d come across the same prey, though he thought it was a vampire. I inhaled, bringing myself back to the present. This wasn’t the twenties, I wasn’t in Paris, and these brothers weren’t Dimitri.

Both had his chiseled features and his straight nose, though their hair was more of a burnt sienna. The one in front wore his cut short and had a tuft on his chin. He towered over his brother, which meant he would be a mountain compared to my small height. The other kept his hair tucked behind his ears. He stood with his arms crossed, wearing a smirk to let the world know he knew everything.

They cast their eyes over the room. The tall one adjusted the glasses on his face and approached the man sitting at the bar. Several women watched them as they passed. A smile touched my lips. The boys knew how to dress to make an impression. Their leather coats and slacks spoke of sophistication yet still provided enough flexibility to move if needed.

I stood and nodded at the boys who’d been trying to talk to me. Rude, but it was time to work. Besides, they were too young for me. I straightened my red tank top and brushed any wrinkles from my jeans. I couldn’t approach them looking like a guttersnipe. A stool opened up on the other side of them. I took the seat and tried to look casual while listening in on the brothers’ conversation. The bartender stood in front of me, waiting for an order.

I pointed to a beer and leaned back to get a better look at the third man. His back remained mostly to me, giving me a glimpse of his bearded cheek and a ponytail a shade darker in color than the other two. Brother number three. I inched forward to hear better over someone’s bad rendition of “Bad Moon Rising.”

“Ader.” The tall man spoke in Romanian. “Your prison sentence hasn’t ended yet.”
“I got out for being brilliant,” the man at the bar said without turning around.
“Does the warden know that?” the third one asked.

If I remembered correctly, this generation of Van Helsings had four boys. Adam, the oldest, had passed away ten years ago. So that left Esais, Adrian, and Tres. The smirking boy had to be Tres he looked the youngest. Was Ader short for Adrian? Ader chuckled. “The warden didn’t have much of a say.”

Esais, the tall one, pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. He shook his head, letting out a long sigh as he looked at his brothers.

“Honestly,” he said. “First you end up in jail, and now you’re breaking out. You haven’t changed.”
“You expected me to?” Adrian asked.
“Why are you here?” Esais asked.
“Same reason as you. Revenge.”
Tres crossed his arms. “Why do you even care? You were never around when we needed you.”

Adrian turned to face his brothers, causing both of them to gasp. A patch covered his right eye while the other stared hard at Tres. Esais reached out to touch Adrian’s arm, but he pulled away.

“What happened?” Esais asked.
“Not important.” Adrian turned back to the bar. “Who were you told to meet?”
“A woman named Gabriella Di Luca.”
“Any idea what this woman looks like?”

Esais glanced in my direction with hesitation and opened his mouth.

I cleared my throat, raising my hand in a small wave. “Buna seara.”

Adrian and Tres turned their heads with near identical expressions of distrust. They didn’t expect someone to speak their native language here. I was a stranger invading their family circle.

“Who are you?” Adrian asked.
“Gabriella.”
“Convenient.” The word dripped with sarcasm.

We didn’t have time for this. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. My gaze traveled to the table-filled area further in the room. The hellhound’s wiry form had disappeared through a large door to the right. The atrocious singing wafted through there. This would be a perfect time to exit.

“We need to speak, but not here,” I said.
“We’re not going anywhere with you.”
“Ader,” Esais said.
Adrian looked back at his brother. “We have no proof she is who she claims to be.”
“He’s right. You could be a demon,” Tres said.
“Then you already revealed yourselves with your conversation,” I said. “Look, how much do you know of demons?”
“I’ve read several books on the subject,” Esais said. “That question doesn’t answer our doubts.”
“Do I fit the description you were given?”

Esais adjusted his glasses before nodding.

“Then, can we leave? I may not be one, but there is a demon here.”

Two turned their heads, their muscles tensing as they scanned the bar while Adrian kept his eye on me. The hellhound stepped back into the room and turned his head in my direction. His gaze locked on me, and he began shoving his way through the crowded tables and chairs.

I stood. “Too late.”

Discover Your Destiny: Guest Post and Giveaway by author Eleanor T. Beaty

Yay it’s my stop for this awesome blog event, Discover Your Destiny! Read more about Eleanor T. Beaty’s book Souls of Darkness and enjoy this guest post by the author. She talks about seeing spirits–is it a gift or a curse? Uh huh, interesting, right?

Oh, there are TWO giveaways during this event. Yep, you read it right. TWO! Don’t forget to enter to win some awesome stuff and a Kindle Paperwhite! :)

About Souls of Darkness

Alex’s life is turned upside down after his father’s sudden death. An old pamphlet found in his father’s belongings leads Alex and his mother, Charlotte, to a remote Polynesian island. His mother longs for a place untouched by past memories, and Alex hopes the trip will help her to heal. Their arrival on the island elicits an eerie episode of déjà vu for Alex, and he begins to wonder about the pamphlet and his father’s past. Why did he have it? Had he been there before? Alex senses something is off with the island. Progress is unwelcome by the inhabitants. A local girl reveals the history of the island and its dark spirits. She warns him to never be caught outside after dark, but Alex finds it all hard to believe… Until inexplicable and terrifying events begin to unfold. While digging for information, Alex finds his presence on the haunted island is not by chance. Rangur, the most evil of souls, aims to use him to acquire great power. There’s only one way Alex can stop him and for that he must uncover his father’s past connection to the island.

Seeing Spirits – A Gift?
There will always be the question or doubt whether being able to see, communicate and interact with spirits is a gift. When I began to study spiritualism (and I am still a beginner no matter how much I study) I came across the explanation that we choose to have or not have this gift before we are born and we choose how much it will impact our lives and destiny. For some reason you asked for it, and I’m not meaning this in a bad way, because God is not so unkind to throw such a burden on someone without previous preparation or permission. That is what I learned. I’m sure there will be people who don’t agree and they have a right to their opinion.
Truth is we all have the ability to be mediums if we want to develop it through practice and study, but it won’t be as strong as those who come with the gift from birth. 
So back to the – you were given a choice- POV. Why would one choose such a gift? One of the reasons would be to help both the living and the dead. For those that don’t believe in past lives this might not make sense, but accepting such a burden is a way of repaying a past debt. There are many different reasons why, but the most common is that, at another time, you may have hurt people through your actions. So think of this not as a burden but as an opportunity to give back and grow, move forward and settle past debts. It is not an easy gift to deal with, as not all spirits that cross your path are easy on the eyes, or good, but there are plenty of tools at hand to teach you how to handle this gift and dominate it so that it doesn’t dominate your life. 
I know plenty of people that think that if they ignore it, it will go away. Denial doesn’t work. I have someone close to me who will turn on all the light in the house when alone and sleep with the TV on loud, just so he can’t hear those invisible friends. One day he’ll give in and probably find an amazing fulfillment with helping people, from both sides.
I don’t have that type of gift. I don’t see, nor do I hear. I always wished I’d had it, but I guess that wasn’t part of my life-plan. However, I have always been around people who have, so I’ve seen close up what it’s like to live with such a gift and use it to help others. The person I learned the most from was an assistant I had a long time ago. Her gift began in her early childhood, and as expected, the first time she told her mother, right after her grandfather died, that he had come to say goodbye, she was dragged off to the psychiatrist. A few years later her mother came to understand and accept her gift and gave her full support. 
My assistant was what is called an unconscious medium, meaning when she’s incorporated by a spirit she will have no recollection, nor control. During her first years, her gift took over her life and it was hell. She received visitors at all times. She would wake up in the strangest places. Through studies she managed to stop that; she learned to sense their approach and block the spirits from taking over. She came to dominate her gift. Sometimes, while we were in a meeting, she would start looking behind me and I would know there was someone there. It could get weird. She did pay a price for such a gift in her personal life, as in she didn’t have much of one, but she helped so many people her sacrifice was rewarded. She never used it to make money, but what if one does? Is it allowed?
In my opinion, the true spiritualist will never charge because they are only the transmitter and those who are actually doing the work, the spirits, are doing it out of kindness and they don’t get paid. However, there are exceptions, and making a humble living when sacrificing your life to help others is allowed. But if you try to use it to exploit people in their hour of need, or to glorify yourself, there will be a price to pay. I saw an amazing tarot reader go from getting everything right to everything wrong when she began to think she could charge a fortune for a service provided by others. She made the mistake of thinking she was the one who could see the future all on her own. Besides losing her high paying clients, she went through a tough time in her personal life.
Seeing and communicating with spirits is a gift and an opportunity to grow. This gift comes accompanied by friends to guide us, our mentors. Our character and our intentions will determine what kind of friends and mentors will surround us. And just like the gift is given, it can be taken away if misused, or it can even hurt us the same way we used it to hurt others.

Eleanor T. Beaty is a Young Adult Paranormal author. A worldly person born in beautiful Brazil and spent much of her childhood in several places (Argentina, Switzerland, and the US to name a few). She holds a BA in English Literature and is published in both Brazil and Turkey.

Eleanor loves spirituality and magic – both have allowed her to gain a strong grip on life and enjoy what it has to offer. She believes that everything has a reason and understanding those reasons help us deal with the difficult moments. Eleanor currently enjoys life with her husband in Brazil.

Follow her at http://eleanortbeaty.com/

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Spotlight: A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

Today we’re featuring a new book with another interesting take on the ever popular vampire legend. Read more about the book and even get a sneak preview of the first 6 chapters!

A Shade of Vampire

On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake.
A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood.

She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine.
An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains.

Sofia’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince.

Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? …or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?

Read an Excerpt

I’d been meandering along the shore for about an hour when I suddenly sensed that I wasn’t alone. Someone was approaching me from behind. My heart leapt. I was so sure it was Ben, that when a stranger showed up beside me, I couldn’t hide my disappointment.

He must have noticed, because a smirk formed on his lips. “Were you expecting someone else, love?”

I eyed him suspiciously, remembering how many times my father had told me not to talk to strangers. I looked him over, taking in his appearance. My eyes widened. I couldn’t find words to describe how fine a man he was. He was almost beautiful. The first thing I took notice of was how his blue eyes were about three shades brighter than any I’d ever seen before. It was such a stark contrast to his pale – almost white – skin and dark hair. Standing beside me, he was easily more than half a foot taller. His height, broad shoulders and lean build reminded me of Ben, but he had a presence that was far more imposing than my best friend’s.
My gaze settled on his face.

I realized that he was inspecting me just as closely as I was him. His eyes on me suddenly made me feel uncomfortably vulnerable. I gave my father’s advice a second thought, but quickly canceled out all notions of heeding to his counsel when I reminded myself that he stopped caring a long time ago.

I straightened to my full height and mustered all the courage I had to keep myself from running away from this stranger.

Big mistake.

The confident smirk didn’t leave his face for even a moment.

“Like what you see?”

“A bit full of yourself, aren’t you?” I scoffed, annoyed by his audacity.

He stepped forward, closer to me, and leaned his head toward mine.

“Don’t I have the right to be?”

He knew he looked good and wasn’t about to act like he didn’t.

“Whatever,” was my oh-so-brilliant comeback.

My shoulders sagged with defeat as I took a step back, unsettled by how close he was now. I rolled my eyes and did a one-eighty, not quite in the mood to play whatever game this stranger was proposing.

I would soon realize that I was about to play his game whether I liked it or not.

He grabbed my arm and turned my body to face him. This motion alone made every single internal alarm I had within me go off in a frenzy.

This man was danger and I knew it. I tried to wriggle away from his touch, but I was no match for his strength.

“Tell me your name,” he commanded.

I was about to refuse, but was horrified to find myself blurting out my name in response.

“Sofia Claremont.”

As soon as I revealed my name, his eyes lit up with a kind of sinister approval. Then he reached for my face and traced his thumb over my jaw line.

“Hello, Sofia Claremont. You’re one stupid girl for taking a walk alone at this time of night. You never know what kind of evil a pretty little thing like you could happen to come by.”

I found myself wondering exactly what kind of evil he was. But I was suddenly overcome by the sensations that were surrounding me. My senses took in everything at once. I heard the waves, felt the sand, smelled the ocean salt, tasted the flavor of cherry and saw the stranger’s manic appearance as he stuck a needle to my neck. The effect was instant. I was barely able to gasp, much less scream. I went from sensing everything to sensing absolutely nothing.

My last conscious thought was that I may never see Ben again.

You can get an exclusive free “sneak preview” of the first 6 chapters by clicking here.

About the Author

I’ve been telling stories pretty much since I could talk. Instead of having my parents read me bed-time stories, I would prefer to share with them my own made up tales.

As I grew older, I developed a passion for the fantasy genre.

I’m an avid reader and a hopeless Potterhead.

If you sign up for personal email updates from me here: www.forrestbooks.com, you’ll be the first to hear about my new releases.

Links: 
Facebook | TwitterGoodreads Amazon US | Amazon US Kindle | Amazon UK | Amazon UK Kindle

Criminal profiling, forensic psychology, and tarot cards! Check out Rogue Oracle by Alayna Williams

Yay another book tour! This is for Rogue Oracle, the second book in the Oracle Series by author Alayna Williams.

I was first drawn to the cover art of this book. Then I read the blurbs of the two books and the words criminal profiler, forensic psychologist, Tarot cards, and divination jumped out at me! Hello, magic words that get me interested in a book! I really wanted to read them for this tour, but I know I wouldn’t be able to finish in time. So, they’re going on my review pile for now. (Ah review pile, you keep growing and growing!)

Anyway, check out this guest post by Alayna Williams. And check out the cover art, the book summaries and the excerpt from Rogue Oracle. Do check them out, friends, do check them out. Thou art awesome. ;)


The Tarot’s Hanged Man: More than Meets the Eye 
A guest post by Alayna Williams

I use Tarot cards a good deal in my writing, to give me ideas about creating characters and develop plot points. Sometimes, I pick cards on purpose that catch my eye, but more often, I deal them out at random. I let my imagination roam over the pictures to generate situations and connections. It’s a fun way to work…sometimes the images touch upon an archetype that I can pull into my work.

One of the cards that captures my imagination is the Hanged Man. This card usually depicts a man hanging by a gallows or tree from his foot. He holds his hands behind his back and wears a serene expression. I’ve heard various explanations of this over the years, from the idea that the pose was intentional to a misprint or artist’s mistake with a reversed printing plate. In our modern decks, he looks back at us, often haloed, seemingly at ease with his suspension.

The traditional meaning of this card has to do with sacrifice, spiritual transformation, suspension, and a calm before the storm. By dangling from his foot, we can see that the man could easily reach up and free himself from the one rope holding a foot, but he chooses not to. He chooses to stay in this uncomfortable position in the pursuit of enlightenment or a new perspective. From his vantage point, he sees things that we can’t. He is literally suspended, in limbo, and seeing things as we do not.

The Hanged Man has its roots in an old myth about the Norse god Odin. Odin brought knowledge of the magic of rune divination to the world, but he sacrificed a great deal in order to do so. He stabbed himself with his own spear and hung himself from the world tree Yggdrasil, in order to absorb the gallow’s tree’s power. He hung for nine days and nights, in a twilight state between life and death, his blood nourishing the tree. He drew into himself the power of the underworld, through the tree’s roots, and the power of the heavens, scraped by the tree’s branches. The knowledge of the runes seeped into him and he fell to the ground on the ninth day, stunned by what he had learned.

The underlying message of the card is that progress and knowledge require sacrifice and a surrender of control. In a Tarot reading, this can be a very uncomfortable place to be in. In transition. Becoming. But it can be worth it.

About the series

ROGUE ORACLE (Delphic Oracle #2)

The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.

Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around – and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn’t need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.

Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards – and Tara’s increasingly ominous dreams – suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi’s Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen… — Get this book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

DARK ORACLE (Delphic Oracle #1)

As a criminal profiler, Tara used science and her intuitive skill at Tarot card divination to track down the dangerous and depraved, including the serial killer who left her scarred from head to toe. Since that savage attack, Tara has been a recluse. But now an ancient secret society known as Delphi’s Daughters has asked for her help in locating missing scientist Lowell Magnusson. And Tara, armed with her Tarot deck, her .38, and a stack of misgivings, agrees to try.

Tara immediately senses there is far more at stake than one man’s life. At his government lab in the New Mexico desert, Magnusson had developed groundbreaking technology with terrifying potential. Working alongside the brusque but charismatic agent Harry Li, Tara discovers that Magnusson’s daughter, Cassie, has knowledge that makes her a target too. The more Tara sees into the future, the more there is to fear. She knows she has to protect Cassie. But there may be no way to protect herself—from the enemies circling around her, or from the long-buried powers stirring to life within. . . . — Get this book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the author


Alayna Williams has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she’s never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses. Like the Pythia in Dark Oracle, she’s been known to belly dance. Unlike the Pythia she’d never consider herself a professional

Writing as Laura Bickle, she’s the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket – Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she’s the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.

Connect with her:  Website | Word Whores | Facebook | Fangs, Fur, and Fey | Twitter

Sparky the fire salamander from EMBERS and SPARKS has his own Twitter account: @SparkySalamandr

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Read an excerpt from Rogue Oracle

Chapter 1

He’d do anything to hear those voices again.

Galen’s head was too silent. The other voices in his head had drained away, leaving him alone. He pressed his cold hands over his ears so that he could hear his own blood and breath thundering, like the ocean in a shell. It was a bit less like being alone. He peered into the darkness, waiting. Waiting for the next voice to fill his thoughts and his dreams.

Through the pulse of his hands, he could hear the whir of an air conditioner and the creak of roof beams cooling overhead as sunlight drained from the day. The orange strip of light shining underneath the closet door thinned and faded. Galen brought his knees up against his chest, and a dress brushed against his cheek. The jasmine scent of his quarry’s perfume on his clothes mingled with the smell of shoe leather.

A car crunched in the driveway, followed by footfalls and the rattle of a key in the lock downstairs. Keys and purse jangled as they were cast on a hall table, and he heard the thunk of shoes being kicked off on the slate tiles of the entryway. The shuffle of mail sounded like a deck of playing cards.
Galen’s breath quickened, and he dug his fingertips into his close-cropped hairline. Not long. Not long, now.

Stocking feet padded into the kitchen. He heard the refrigerator door open, close. A microwave whirred, and a bell chimed. Galen’s nose wrinkled. Reheated rubber chicken from a trendy bistro, with tomato sauce. A television droned, comforting voices rising up through the floor. He leaned his head back against the wall of the closet. The television voices nattered on about Middle East peace talks, of a terrorism suspect captured, of the latest results from a television game show.

A fork clattered in the kitchen’s stainless-steel sink. The television turned off, plunging the house into false silence. Footsteps climbed the stairs to the second floor. Galen could hear the polyester zing of stockings on the plush carpet as his quarry walked past the closet. Light spilled under the closet door.

He held his breath.

The footsteps swished into the bathroom, opened the bathtub tap. Pipes creaked behind the closet wall. Galen smelled bath salts and citrus soap, heard the squeak of flesh against the bottom of the enameled tub. A shampoo bottle belched its last quantity of soap before it was tossed away into a trash can.

Elbows resting on his knees, Galen waited.

Like the rest of his quarry, he’d never met her. This one’s name was Lena. He’d only been led to her by the memories of others. Those memories burned bright in his mind for a few weeks and faded quickly, like a bruise. They left behind vacant space, space meant to occupy another. And another. His last victim, Carl, had remembered Lena. Through Carl’s eyes, Galen had seen Lena in all her fearless beauty: Lena, walking across Red Square with her lustrous dark hair covered by a scarf. Lena, dressed in a gown with a plunging neckline, her throat glittering with jewels…paste jewels that contained smuggled microchips in the settings. Lena, methodically taking apart a gun in a hotel room and wiping it clean of prints.

If he’d ever really bothered to admit it to himself, Lena had been the love of Carl’s life. Carl may not have seen it, but when Galen had taken possession of Carl’s memories, he could see it. Carl’s memories were twenty years old. But Galen wanted to see Lena, as Carl had. Though Carl’s voice had stopped ringing in Galen’s head, some of that feeling remained. Carl, the old spy, had carried a torch for Lena, right up until the time Galen had killed him.

The light under the closet door winked out. Galen heard Lena pull back the bedspread and climb into bed. He heard her punch the pillows and rearrange the covers. After a half-hour, all Galen could hear was the soft hiss of her breathing, moving in time his own breath echoing in his ears.

Galen nudged the closet door open. His muscles creaked as he unfolded his lanky frame. He caught his breath, certain that Lena could hear it. But the form stretched on its side in the bed didn’t move.

Galen approached the bed. Dim light from the street filtered through the curtains, illuminating Lena’s features. Age had softened her face, sketching lines that hadn’t existed in Carl’s memory. Her dark hair was streaked with silver, brushed over a shoulder that was rounder than Carl remembered. Her right hand curled loosely over the pillow, and a ring glittered behind a swollen joint. Galen recognized it: it was one that Carl had given her, many years ago.

Galen peeled back a corner of the covers and slipped into the bed behind Lena. His arms wrapped around her waist and mouth, ripping her nightgown. Lena awoke with a jerk, struggling against him. She howled and bit the hand around her mouth, drawing blood.

Galen could hear her. He could hear her swearing at him, screaming. The scream muffled as he wrapped his fingers around her throat and squeezed. He felt his fingers shattering the delicate hyoid bone in her throat, dig deeper, into her flesh. His own skin had grown porous and elastic, fingers reaching up into her jaw. Lena’s eyes rolled back in panic. She wheezed as Galen pressed his chest to her back. He could feel her warm flesh against his cold body, felt the cells in his skin growing plastic, reaching out. One of Lena’s white teeth glinted in his thumb. It disappeared as his hand lost its shape, flowed into her mouth. In his other hand, he could feel his fingers splitting apart Lena’s ribs, feeling the fluttering of her heart like a sparrow in a cage. His hand unfolded and fused with her heart, and he could feel his pulse pumping in time with hers.

Trapped in his embrace, Galen heard Lena whimper as she became part of him, melting into his flesh. He could feel her disintegrating, her skin losing surface tension as his body began its parasitic devouring of every bit of vessel and cell, like a snake digesting its prey. But this digestion was external: a slow dissolving of Lena’s body. Galen was conscious of Lena’s elbow somewhere near his lung, of her fingers wound around his ribs.

And he could hear her. The whisper of Lena’s memories suffused his head, like Carl’s had.

Whispers tumbled over each other, shards of memory cutting deep in his head where they intersected with Carl’s fading thoughts

Galen smiled.

He wouldn’t be alone…for as long as Lena’s voice lasted. Afterward, just as Carl’s memories led Galen to her, Lena’s secrets would lead him to others.

#

“The warden calls you a monster.”

Tara Sheridan stared over the edge of a manila file folder at the man in an orange jumpsuit, wrists chained to his waist with a belly chain. He stared at her with contempt over a scarred stainless steel table. As she paged through the psych reports conducted by other profilers, she was inclined to agree. Zahar Mouda was an accused terrorist. He’d been caught by campus police at a large Midwestern university, attempting to drag a drum of solvents out of the chemistry lab. He’d been unsuccessful in convincing the campus cops that he was dragging a keg to a frat house. Subsequent inquiries had shown a pattern of missing materiel that could be used to make bombs. Lots of them.

Zahar shrugged, the movement restricted by the rattle of the chain around his waist. For all the bravado of his words, he looked very young to Tara: thin, stringy build, large brown eyes framed by square-rimmed glasses. His file said he was twenty-two. She watched his fingers fidget with the chain around his waist, watched him chew his lip.

“Do you think I’m a monster?” he challenged.

“I don’t know. But the Bureau of Prisons would like me to find out.”

“What do you know about monsters?” Zahar snorted.

“Plenty,” Tara told him.

He stared at her, but his gaze faltered as it snagged on a white scar that crept up from the collar of Tara’s suit jacket, curling up around her neck to her jaw. Tara didn’t flinch, didn’t bother to hide it. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt Zahar to know that Tara had faced much greater monsters than he.  

Tara leaned forward, pressing her elbows to the battered table, resting her chin in her hand. A wisp of chestnut hair from the chignon at the base of her neck pulled free, tickling the raised skin of the scar, and she ignored it. “What were you doing with those chemicals?”

Zahar rolled his eyes. “Look, I was just trying to make some money. It was just little stuff, at first. First, the guy asked for a departmental phone book, then a few sample slides, then…” He shook his head. “It was a few bucks, here and there. For dumb shit.”

Tara’s mouth thinned. This was how traitors were groomed. Small, inconsequential things snowballed into larger favors. Before long, the victim had given up too much and was indebted to his handler. There was no way out.

“You took the money. Why?”

“I’m trying to save up to bring my sister over here. She wants to study pharmacy.”

“Who offered you the money?”

“Some guy at the student union.”

“You got a name?” She regarded him with ink-blue eyes, measuring to see if he told the truth.

“Masozi. That’s what I told the cops.”

Tara tapped her pen on her notepad, keeping her face carefully neutral. The Federal Bureau of Prisons had asked her to form a profile on Zahar, to determine how dangerous he truly was.

“How much?”

“Ten thousand per shipment.”

“That’s more than enough money to get your sister over here.”

“Stuff’s expensive.”

Zahar leaned back in his chair, and Tara could sense he was shutting down. She tried a different tactic: “Tell me about your sister.”

Zahar licked his lips, and his eyes darted away. Not a good sign…his body language indicated that he was buying time, fabricating. Or else, weighing what to tell Tara. When he spoke, though, his voice was soft. Almost vulnerable. “You don’t understand. I had to buy my sister back.”

Tara’s pen stilled. “Buy her back?” she echoed.

“She’s married. Third wife of a colleague of my father’s. He’s not really fond of her. Slaps her around.” Zahar looked away, and Tara watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed. “He agreed to allow her to apply for a visa, but wanted money. Fifty thousand in US dollars.”

“What about student loans?”

Zahar shook his head. “I’m on fellowship. My tuition’s waived, and I get a monthly stipend. Seven hundred fifty dollars, after taxes.” His mouth turned down, and he pushed his glasses up his nose with his shoulder. “And, let’s face it, nobody wants to see a male chemistry nerd do fifty thousand dollars’ worth of exotic dancing down at the strip club.”

Tara smothered a laugh. “Tell me about when you were children.”

Zahar didn’t miss a beat. “Asha’s three years younger than me. Takes after our mother. She did great in school. She got through her first year of college before she met my father’s business associate when she was home on break. The guy took an immediate shine to her.” His fists balled at his waist. “I wanted to kick his ass.”

“What was her favorite toy?”

“A doll my grandmother made for her. She named it Rahma.”

“Tell me about when you fought.” This was a trick question. All siblings fought. She wanted to gauge how honest Zahar was with her.

“Our worst fight was when we were little…she was probably seven. I found a bird egg in a tree and broke it over her head. She ran crying in to our mother, and we both got punished.”

“Did you feel bad about that?”

“About getting my sister in trouble? Not really.”

“No.” She paused. “About breaking the egg.”

He blinked quizzically at Tara. “I don’t know what you mean.”

A knock rang against the metal door behind Tara, and a guard’s voice filtered through: “Five minutes, Dr. Sheridan.”

“Thank you,” Tara called. She scribbled some notes on her notepad. The Bureau of Prisons had guaranteed her a secure room without observation cameras for her interview with Zahar. She was heartened to see that someone would bother to check in on them, eventually.

Zahar stared at Tara. “Well, what did you decide?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you decide whether or not I’m a monster?” His mouth twitched around the word.

“I haven’t made any decisions, yet.”  

“But your opinion is one that matters.”


Tara’s mouth thinned. “Your psychological profile will make a great deal of difference in this investigation. But mine isn’t the only opinion you need to fear.”

“Will it make any difference in how I’m treated?” Zahar’s fingers knotted in the chain. “Am I going to get deported?”

“That’s not up to me.”

The door behind Tara swung open, and two federal prison guards crowded into the tiny room.

They unlocked the belly chain from the metal chair, and marched him back through the door. Zahar’s plastic inmate flip-flops slapped on the concrete floor.

One of the guards held the door open. “You coming, ma’am?”

“Can you give me fifteen more minutes?” Tara said. “I’d like to jot down my notes while they’re fresh.”

“See you in fifteen.” The door clanged shut, and Tara was left in the tiny room with the fluorescent light buzzing overhead.

She stacked the contents of her file back up neatly and placed them in the file folder. She shoved the folder aside, placed her purse on the table. She rooted around in the bottom of her purse for a pack of cigarettes. Tara didn’t smoke, but the cigarette pack attracted little notice on the metal detectors at the prison or in the quick manual search of her bags. Tara flipped off the lid of the pack and pulled out a deck of cards.

The back of the cards were decorated in an Art Nouveau pattern of stars on a background of midnight blue, edged in silver. These Tarot cards had been a gift to replace the deck her mother had given her, long ago. They’d been a peace offering, of sorts – Tara’s lover had given them to her, though he was uneasy with what they’d represented. Tara’s original deck had been destroyed. These still felt too crisp to her, the cardstock still stiff and shiny-new. She hadn’t quite yet bonded with this deck. Each deck had its own quirks, even a limited personality, and this one seemed determined to surprise Tara at each turn.

She moved to Zahar’s still-warm seat, wanting to occupy his physical space. She blew out her breath and shuffled the cards. The sharp cardstock cut her thumb as she shuffled, and she popped her thumb in her mouth as she wiped away a droplet from the edge of the deck.

“Tell me about Zahar,” she breathed at the cards, ignoring the paper cut. “Tell me about his heart, mind, and spirit.”

She pulled three cards and placed them, face-down, on the table. Tara’s fingers fogged the scratched stainless steel, and she turned the first one over.

The Fool, the first card in the deck, confronted her in a riot of clear watercolors. The ancestor of the joker in the modern playing card deck, the Fool depicted a young man skipping through a green field, toward the edge of a cliff. The Fool held a bundle over his shoulder, and gazed skyward at birds in a blue sky. The Fool, one of the Major Arcana cards, represented archetypes at play, suggested the broad strokes of destiny.

Tara steepled her fingers before her, brushing her lower lip. The Fool was a card of innocence and recklessness. It spoke of youth. Where Zahar was concerned, it might reflect the idea that Zahar had been carelessly going down the path of the traitor without watching where he was going. At heart, he might be more innocent than she’d thought.

She turned over the second card, the Seven of Cups. Cups were one of the four Minor Arcana suits, and represented choices and reactions to destiny. As a suit, cups represented emotions. In her three-card spread, this signified what had gone on in Zahar’s mind. The card depicted a man gazing at a pyramid of seven cups, from which fantastical creatures and images crawled: dragons, golden fish, a jewel-encrusted sword, a snake, a castle, and a veiled woman. This was a card of illusions. Zahar’s head was filled with lies, perhaps from his handler, perhaps from his sister’s husband. Zahar may have started out innocent, as the Fool, but he’d made a choice to be deceived.

The last card in the spread represented spirit. Tara was most eager to see what Zahar really was, deep down. She flipped over the Three of Wands, which depicted a man staring out over the sea at a ship, surrounded by three staves. The Minor Arcana suit of Wands represented fire, movement, and creation. But the Three of Wands was reversed, suggesting treachery and ulterior motives. Tara’s brow wrinkled. Zahar’s handler may have been lying to him, and Zahar might have even been lying to himself. But, with this card, she was also certain that Zahar was lying to her.

She blew out her breath. She cleared the three cards from the table, shuffled them back into the deck. She felt the whir of the stiff cards in her hands as she whispered to them: “What else do I need to know?”

Tara cut the deck three times and drew the first card from the top of the reshuffled deck. Her brow wrinkled as she turned it over.

The Lovers. The Major Arcana card depicted a man and a woman tangled in an embrace. It was difficult for her to tell where one ended and the other began. A voyeuristic angel watched over them from a cloud.

Stymied, Tara rested her head in her hand. She didn’t yet fully trust this new deck, and it seemed that this card had nothing whatsoever with Zahar’s situation. She tapped the image with her fingers, let her mind rove around the image. She didn’t like where free-associating led her: to her own personal life. To Harry. Harry had given her this deck, and it seemed to be intent upon reminding her of him.

Her fingertips crawled up her collar to the scars lacing her throat, remembering the feel of Harry’s kisses upon them. She hadn’t seen Harry for months. As an agent for the Special Projects Division of the Department of Justice, he’d been transferred a couple of times on various assignments, making a relationship difficult. Tara understood; years ago, she’d been an agent for Special Projects. Special Projects took, but rarely gave anything back.

Her fingers hesitated on her scars. Special Projects had taken much from her. Working for them, she’d fallen under the tender mercies of the Gardener, a serial killer who buried women in his greenhouses. She’d survived, barely, and called it quits. She only hoped that Harry wouldn’t be subjected to the same dangers.

The latch on the consultation room door ratcheted back, and the door opened. Tara scrambled to shovel her cards into her purse. Looking up with a scowl, she expected to see one of the guards.

“You’re back early–” she snapped, but her breath snagged in her throat.

Harry Li stood in the doorway, his hand on the knob. He was almost exactly as she’d remembered him from months ago: sharply-creased charcoal suit, polished shoes, black hair precisely parted. But there were circles beneath his almond eyes.

“Hi, Tara.” He let the door clang shut behind him.

“I…oh. I thought you were the guard.” She finished scooping the cards into her purse, but her heart hammered.

Harry inclined his chin at the disappearing cards. “Still reading?”

“Yeah.” She zipped her purse shut and folded her hands over her purse. “How did you find me?” she asked, but what she really wanted to ask was: Why here, and why now?

“When you said that you were getting back to work, I figured that you wouldn’t stray too far from your forensic psychology roots.”

Tara’s mouth turned down. “Just contract work. Some pro bono stuff for psychiatric hospitals. That kind of thing.” She’d dipped her toe back into work, gingerly. So far, it seemed to be going well, in those measured small doses. Her work with Zahar was filling in for a government psychologist away on maternity leave.

An awkward silence stretched.

Harry stuffed his hands in his pockets, jingled loose change. He did that when he was nervous. “I missed you.”

Tara glanced up at him. His face was open, tired, and she felt a jab of sympathy for him. Her fingers knotted in her purse strap. She was fighting the urge to stand up and kiss him. “I missed you, too.”

His eyes crinkled when he smiled, and he dropped into the other chair on the opposite side of the table. Exhaustion was palpable in the broken line of his shoulders. “Special Projects is killing me.”

Tara reached across the table for his hand. His fingers folded around hers, wound up so tightly that she couldn’t tell where hers ended and his began.

“I’ve been there,” she said, without irony.

“I know.” His mouth flattened. “That’s why I came to ask for your help.”

Tara’s hand froze. She had hoped that he’d come to see her. Not for work. “Oh.” She looked down at her fuzzy reflection in the table.

Harry reached across the table, crooked a finger under her chin. “Hey. That’s not what I mean. I wanted to see you, and –“

Tara withdrew her hand and pulled her chair back, drawing her professional mantle tightly about her. “Tell me about your case, Harry.”

Harry stared down at his empty hand, closed it. “A half-dozen Cold War-era intelligence operatives have disappeared. We’ve got evidence that specialized intelligence connected to them is being sold internationally, to the highest bidder. Most of it has to do with uranium stockpiles, leftover pieces of weapons from Soviet Russia. Tehran has been all over it.”

“That sounds like a military issue. Or an NSA problem.” Tara crossed her arms over her chest.

“You would think. But the disappearances are…unusual. These men and women have been vanishing without a trace. No bodies, no evidence of struggles.”

Tara shrugged. “Maybe they defected. Maybe they’re having a beach party in Tehran.”

“Homeland Security hasn’t caught any of them trying to move outside the country. Some of them have literally walked off surveillance footage and were never seen again. It’s like the fucking Rapture – they leave their clothes, jewelry, even cell phones behind, and vanish. Of course, there’s also the fact that there are no beaches in Tehran.” He smirked, mouth turning up flirtatiously.

Tara lifted an eyebrow, intrigued. “What’s their connection to each other?”

“All of them were associated with something called Project Rogue Angel in the 1990’s. It involved cataloguing and tracking the disposal of nukes in the former USSR.”

“That sounds like a thankless job.”

“Wasn’t as successful as one might hope.” Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I think that somebody got to these people. I can’t prove it. But I need help in figuring out who’s behind the disappearances. You’re the best damn profiler Special Projects has ever seen, and we need you.”

Tara considered him. Harry wasn’t the type of man who would readily ask for help, and he’d done so in a clumsy way. She was reluctant to become involved with Special Projects again, to be their tool. But she owed him.

He looked at her, eyes red with too little sleep. “I need you.”

She reached forward, took his hand. She couldn’t say no.