A Hard Subject – A #HoldOnToTheLight post

holdontothelight-fb-bannerYup.  No idea what to write about on this topic because I kept asking myself the question, what’s stopping me from actually following through on letting my self destructive urges win and take me out.

No idea, nothing consistent anyway.  I can tell you that the one year I really was this close to leaping off the ledge, it was thoughts of a girl and a promise that stalled that potential disaster.

I had my world crashed down upon by the ending of my 12 year marriage.  We’d split (mostly) amicably, then left the apartment when financial prodding encouraged us.

Read, we were behind on rent.

When I stayed with a friend of mine, I had gone so far as to tell the authors in my editing stable that I was getting awfully comfortable with the darkness.  I was drinking heavily, for me.  And I wasn’t caring.  Up at all hours, asleep at the other half, at the cigar club  letting myself take the fun out of a hobby.  I remember once calling my mentor at 4 AM,, California time.  She’s an east coast girl, and thankfully, keeps odd hours like I do now.  But it wasn’t a pretty phone call.  My bartenders noticed.  Those I did tell noticed.

When I say those I did tell, I mean no one.  I didn’t talk.  I told a few authors I just didn’t know what the future held, but I never used language to hit at my impending demise because I didn’t actually want to die.

I was lonely.

What fixed it?  How long did it take?

Problem with that is that I’m not sure a fix is possible.  Fast forward three years later, another broken heart, a lot of travel and I get my own apartment.  Tired of looking at my life the way I always had, I needed a change and decided to really jump into personal growth.  I’d stumbled across T Harv Ecker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. That was painful – not because the book is bad, it isn’t.  But it turns out that getting rich, even in our industry, isn’t about how hard we work.   I mean that’s part of it, but real true wealth including the financial riches I’m after, come from a number of factors.

First, what goes into your head
Second, what comes out of your mouth.

What’s ignored is the behavior patterns ingrained from childhood.  Our self defeating demons that are just like everyone else’s until we through in being a writer or an artist on top of that.  Normal shit.  For me, I had a lot of limiting beliefs that were creating self sabotaging behaviors, including overindulging because, fuck it.  Why not?

A training based on that book came into town and I thought, “great.  This will help heal all the damage.”

It was really amazing, and I cleared a lot of dead weight from my shoulders.  I thought I was golden.  I confronted my demons, the ones that let me write romance from a place of true vehement anger.  My writing changed.  My outlook changed.

I discovered Mind Valley Academy and began going through their masterclasses.  I thought this was it.  This was the break from the cycle of insanity.

I was wrong.  But my mental state was shifting.  It wasn’t so dark anymore because I’d started doing the one thing that was the hardest for an alpha male to do.

I started talking.  Really, actually talking.  Not trying to pick up and sleep with women (did that too, can’t take the wolf out of the man…) but actively talking about what’s in my head and telling anyone who was getting close to me.  Then crying, letting the tears flow and then I stopped feeling embarrassed about that shit.

In doing all of this over the last three years, I think I wrote three brand new novels (finishing the Opeth Pack Saga) a few short stories and a new romance series featuring puma shifters and magic.  I had edited two earlier Opeth Pack books, edited a number of other stuff for two publishers, and probably put out 500,000 words over the three year period of traveling the country.  I was busy as hell while I traveled and dealt with this.

I started reclaiming my time.  I started using time I would normally be busy doing some useless thing, to just let it be empty.  Or filling it with more productive things that include learning and being okay with the fact that, at the end of the day, I did not have to kill myself for work, for a book or an ideal of what a writer is supposed to look like.  This decreased my stress.

But studying top preforming people like Tim Ferriss and the people he deconstructs only reinforces one thing, and I suppose that’s probably the key for this post.

Those of us in any creative field are prone whatever behavioral patterns and beliefs we are given until we learn to conquer them.  But if we don’t recognize that this is not something we are alone in, and we don’t do something about it, it’ll never change.

We are a lot alike.  Maybe this post will help, or maybe this one by Tim Ferriss himself can shed some light on things for you.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to
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Love’s Haunt cover

Aurelia, responsible for watching over her brother Les, has found her mates in the Opeth loveshaunt-187x300Pack, but cannot have them due to her allegiance to the Nobles.  Until she frees Les of that allegiance and makes him see that there is a mate for him, she can only watch from afar.  Les gives her heavy news about the fate of her mates, so Aurelia runs to warn Bianca and Viktor, only to fall in love with both the taller Hungarian and the shorter blonde with the fiery attitude.  As winter hits Albuquerque, it’s revealed that Aurelia has been inhabited by the Flower Maiden, a deity who spreads disease throughout wolf-kind, for a purpose.  She gets her male mate sick, then drains herself in an attempt to heal him, as the Nobles bring the war to the Opeth Pack.

Buy on Amazon

 

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Fall Into Love – Opeth Pack Saga

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Cover Reveal – Kisses Fall

KissesFallFLAT

Book three in the Opeth Pack Saga, out now!

As a witch, Éva’s life with János is interrupted when a stranger named Álmos shows up on her doorstep, looking for hospitality.  He’s claiming to be her pack mate and that she’s truly a wolf who has forgotten her magic.  Her lover János is wary of the newcomer, who unknowingly brings attackers with him that end up making János sick and in need of transportation back to Hungary where the soil contains nutrients to help heal the wolves.  As the three navigate their relationship and figure out how to function in the pack, Éva is shown her truth; she’s a shifter like the others, and she has a sister.  Meanwhile, the threat from the Nobles escalates to the point where one comes after Éva, claiming to be her lover.

Grab your copy on Amazon now!

 

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Out soon – Cover reveal! Opeth Pack Wolves: Raining Kisses, paranormal menage romance

After slaughtering Katarina’s brother and father, along with a handful of other wolves who tried to abuse them, Nicholaus realizes his true darkness and decides to leave Hungary to keep his lovers safe from him.  Relocating to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Nicholaus made a life for himself where he controlled the shots until the Opeth Pack messenger shows up with one of his RainingKisses-paperbackcoverlovers, requesting his assistance back in Hungary.

Katarina’s other lover Krystyna has done something bad, but what, Katarina doesn’t know.  Her heart aches for both her stubborn lovers and forces her to find the courage to venture to America and bring Nicholaus back.  Once the threesome reunites, sparks explode but secrecy threatens to tear the triad apart, as does Prophecy.  Will Nicholaus remain with the two women who hold his heart, or will his lack of control make him return to the States, alone forever?

Excerpt:

Nicholaus mused over how badly some people drove down Central Avenue late at night. Odd that some people were dumb enough to not show good driving skills, knowing the cops in Albuquerque were such fascists about the dumbest things like slightly overshooting a left turn. Even if the wind was blowing hard enough to make driving difficult, which it was tonight, the cops would still pull someone over if they even thought the driver was under the influence.

Thankfully, Nicholaus didn’t have to worry about that problem right now. It took wolves much longer to get drunk.

Watching passing cars drive down Central Avenue was amusing to him. Standing on the balcony of his loft, he puffed on a large cigar, sending clouds of smoke billowing toward the somewhat cloudy sky. Another deep draw sent more smoke off toward the Hyatt Hotels, blurring the red and green lights atop the multi-story towers.

Nicholaus pulled his leather jacket tighter around broad shoulders. He pulled his ponytail free of his collar. Running long fingers through thick hair, he readjusted his ponytail and let it sweep over his slender waist.

A few people walked by, couples sometimes, sometimes groups. Talking, holding hands, laughing or acting drunk, they were all the same to him.

Stupid humans.

Well, most of them. Occasionally he smelled a lone wolf walking down the street, heading toward the nearly hundred and fifty bars located in downtown, most of which resided off Central.

In another hour, dancing would be starting at The Library with the girls and their lovely short plaid schoolgirl skirts. The Coliseum, kitty corner from his loft, had just turned on their lights announcing they were open for the younger, more urban crowd.

How he missed those days, chasing the young skirts, barely old enough to get into a club, let alone buy alcohol. He’d had his share of women hit on him. Alas, he’d turned most of them down, even the ones who practically threw themselves at him. Every once in a while, there had been another wolf who came along, scenting his arousal, hoping she would find a mate. It had been hard shooting down so many beautiful women, but somehow, he’d managed. He felt too old, even then, to be fucking everything that moved and had breasts.

Looking out his balcony, he swore he saw two familiar faces. He leaned his large body over the metal railing and long strands of dark hair fell over his face. He caught sight of a pretty redhead dressed in a white cloak. Her companion, slightly taller with darker red hair, wore form fitting jeans that made her ass look oh so delectable. The first woman wore boots and black jeans and had a young face. The other woman’s tight shirt hugged glorious round breasts snugly, showing some cleavage.

He swore he knew those two—wolves?

“Lukina?” He whispered the word silently.

His breath hitched in his throat. The other wolf…Katarina?

Puffing on his cigar, he blew two thick clouds of smoke down toward the street before stepping back from the edge of the balcony, hoping he hadn’t been seen or scented.

The last thing he wanted to do tonight was revisit an old wound.

He took another long drag from his cigar and set it down on the ash tray, exhaling another large cloud of smoke that circled above his head. Reaching behind him, he grabbed the glass of beer he’d poured and took a long sip, finishing the drink. It was time for bed anyway.

Hell, he wondered what the fuck Lukina and Katarina were doing in New Mexico anyway. And where was his other mate, Krystyna? Last he’d heard, Lukina and Ilona, the two main pack healers, had found the new pack Alpha.

The poor bastard in charge would soon regret his decision. His destiny apparently was to lead the pack to a heaven that didn’t exist.

Slowly he turned and walked into the warmth of his loft.

He shut the glass door, locked it, and went to the bedroom space. While he undressed and pulled back the sheets on his oversized bed his stomach started to sink. Something was up.

God damn it.

Nicholaus crawled into bed and pulled the covers over his head. He didn’t want to deal with whatever was coming his way, even if she was full-figured and had lips like velvet. And damn it, Lukina was with her too. That was never a good sign.

He remembered the last time he’d seen Katarina and closed his eyes with the memories. She was hugging Krystyna, their other lover, tightly. Tears were streaming down both their faces while they waved goodbye to him and begged him not to leave Hungary.

Sighing heavily, he recalled the day after he’d boarded the plane to America. Having to hear more prophetic bullshit from their current Alpha, who happened to be losing his mind, was enough to make anyone want to leave the pack.

The looks on others’ faces when he walked down the dirt streets filled him with trepidation he had no desire to deal with.

After killing Katarina’s brother and father and blacking out, he realized the graveness of his nature. Since then, he’d refused to kill again. Swore the awakening of his true nature was more dangerous to his loved ones and the world at large.

He hated himself for wishing they would forget him. It drove him mad to think he could forget his wolf nature. But he despised himself as a wolf. At least the humans didn’t have the pull of murder.

Yeah, they killed. Sure, there were numerous hopeless cases out there. But the majority of humans he’d come in contact with seemed decent.

He was still unable to stand how the only true love he’d ever received came from them. Even now, twenty five years later, it burned him to think of how he’d rejected their love by leaving Hungary and the pack.

“Oh well.” He sighed heavily and rolled over to one side. Fluffing his pillow, he rested his head on it and prayed for dreamless sleep.

 

* * * *

 

Jarred from sleep by a loud knocking sound at his door, Nicholaus shouted, “All right damn it! I’m coming!”

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Nicholaus shook loose the kinks in the legs of his lounge pants and padded toward the door. He remembered who he’d seen earlier and his stomach sank. He did not need a visit from Lukina or Katarina.

Especially Katarina.

Slipping his robe over his shoulders, he belted it and brushed long strands of hair out of his face. A quick glance at the clock told him it was well after two a.m. Hell, he sniffed feminine scents and alcohol from the door. Shit. He didn’t have time to fully open the door before a pair of tiny arms and a flurry of hair assaulted him.

“Nicholaus!”

Caught off balance, he stumbled a few steps back; Lukina wrapped her arms around his frame before he could catch himself against the wall. “Lukina, what brings you and,” he glanced at Katarina and narrowed his eyes, “her here at this hour?”

Lukina pulled away and looked up at him with a smile. Her ruby red lips were kissable; the bastard who loved her was certainly blessed. “We thought we’d visit our favorite missing pack brother.”

“Bullshit, Lukina. Whenever you show up, something is always wrong. You always have bad news. What do you want?”

She let go and stepped back, raising her chin to meet his gaze. Deep ocean blue eyes held an angry stare. “I’m not fond of being the messenger, but it’s what I am, apparently, at the moment. Also, I don’t bring bad news. I bring—”

He cleared his throat. “Don’t say it. Prophecy, right?”

She nodded. “I hate how the universe has chosen to send messages, but it’s the way things work. Like Józsi, and Marco before him, deal with it.”

Les’s words still rang true. He’d set shit in motion, obviously. She could be so grown up at times that it was almost irritating. “And Katarina?”

Moving strands of hair out of her face, she looked up. Her pout said it all; she was still angry with him. Her features had filled out nicely, he noted as she rubbed her arms together, covering taut nipples beneath her blouse. “I am not here of my own volition. I wouldn’t have come here if she hadn’t insisted.”

He nodded. “I understand.” His heart ached at the thought that she didn’t want to see him as much as he wanted to see her.

Lukina shoved her way past Nicholaus with a force that bumped him into the wall with oomph.

“What do you think you’re doing, little girl?” He straightened his shoulders and stalked after her.

She looked over her shoulder and glared. “Letting myself in, since you’re such a rude host.”

He put his hand to his forehead. “I wouldn’t be a rude host if I had known to expect company.”

“You did know. We smelled your cigars earlier.”

He swallowed hard. “Damn it,” he mumbled under his breath. “What do you want?”

“We need you to come home—” Lukina started to speak, but Katarina’s hand flew over Lukina’s mouth. Lukina caught Katarina’s hand and met her stare, then looked back at Nicholaus. “We have a situation.”

A shudder raced through him but he managed to keep his voice even. “What? Tell me what’s going on, Katarina.”

She met his stare with wide eyes. Standing before him with her chest nearly busting out of her black top reminded him how good she always looked. Long red hair had been pulled back out of her face, but tears formed in the pools of her beautiful green eyes. She shivered and hugged herself.

When she wouldn’t respond, he strode toward her, grabbed his former mate by the elbow and tugged her inside, urging Lukina to follow. “Get in here, both of you.” He shut the door and watched Katarina’s expression.

She stopped, stared down the white walled corridor that banked off to the left, then back out the window in front of her almost in a daze. She wasn’t tracking, clearly.

The heater kicked on, a low rumble that startled Katarina. She looked up at the huge vents and aluminum piping overhead.

“Heater, drágám.” He pointed up at the large silver vent.

She nodded.

“Got anything to drink?” Lukina pushed past them and headed toward the living area.

Nicholaus shifted his gaze on Lukina. “You’re not old enough to drink, little girl. Not in this country, nor among the humans.”

Her boots stopped and echoed on the concrete floor. She looked over her shoulder, glared at him and then strode down the hall. “It’s been a long enough time that I am legal now.  Besides, we don’t and have never abided by their laws, remember? Or have you lived among them too long and forgotten our ways?”

Ouch. He sighed heavily. “There’s an open bottle of port on the counter. Bring three glasses.”

Lukina sauntered around the corner toward the kitchen, leaving Nicholaus alone with Katarina in the long hallway.

Musk and earth wafted over his nose, along with the keen smell of wolf hovering just below the surface of her smooth, dark skin. How she managed to hide the extra magic she possessed amazed him. He wondered if she’d come into her full power yet. By the scent of her aura, he’d guessed she hadn’t.

He stared into her eyes, searched their depths and wanted to beg her forgiveness instantly. In a second, he shut the thought down and forced himself to refocus his energy and thoughts on why they were here.

In the twinkle of her eyes, he swore he saw tears forming. Yet she met his stare once again with an upturned chin, before turning around, glancing at the floor and walking away.

Nicholaus let out a harsh breath, pulled her into his arms and held her head against his chest.

Slowly, Katarina wrapped her arms around him and let her hands search for comfort.

Fingers caressed his skin and sent a tremor through him. He looked down, kissed the top of her head gently. Her skin shouldn’t have been this cold; her inner wolf should have given her plenty of body heat. She hadn’t eaten obviously. “Hug me, szerető.

Her grip around him tightened until she was flush with him. Her head nestled in the crook of his neck.

Slowly, Nicholaus caressed her hair, tugged at the braid of silken smoothness. Suddenly, his nose picked up the sweet, earthen scents of Hungary.

Of home.

Warm tears fell on his shoulder.

Drágám, what’s wrong?”

“Get me that drink and we’ll talk.” She spoke low into his shoulder, her words vibrating along his skin. Even in tears, her voice caressed his ears like a siren song.

Igen.” He helped her around the corner, down the hallway, and sat her down on his leather couch against a wall with large windows that overlooked 6th Street.

She turned around, looking out through the wall of windows before her gaze returned to him. Katarina sniffled, wiped her nose with the back of her sleeve and set her hands down in her lap. “The mountains off in the distance are nice. This is some view you have.”

He nodded. “Indeed.”

Lukina joined them and handed them both glasses filled with port.

Nicholaus took his glass, sniffed it and inhaled the aromas of dark berry, raisin and tobacco. After only a sip, he set his glass down on the table beside the couch. “Will this help your nerves?”

Katarina looked at Lukina.

Lukina nodded and took a sip of port. “It’s safe here.”

Katarina nodded again, tentatively picked up her glass and looked at the dark red alcohol. Bringing the glass to her lips, she downed the entire contents in one shot. “Another, please.”

“Okay.” Lukina took her glass and refilled it. She looked up at Nicholaus, “We have business to discuss, Nicholaus.”

He moved closer to Katarina, aware of her free hand now in his and how tight she gripped him. “I gathered that. Is this going to be a really long night? It’s already after two AM.”

“Well,” Lukina paused, took another sip and then set her glass on the coffee table. “It depends.”

He sighed, arching a brow in irritation. He’d once heard on the open mental channel between the pack that when Lukina showed up, she’d become the new pack messenger. Hearing from her usually meant terrible things were on the way. While he’d not maintained contact with anyone from the Opeth Pack, he’d still been informed of goings on through the mental pathways where words traveled with less restriction. “On what?”

“On whether you decide to help us or not.” Lukina’s stare pierced through any hope he had for a short and simple resolution.

“Of course,” Nicholaus finished his glass and handed it to Lukina. “Refill it.” Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he looked down at the hand in his, let his gaze travel up Katarina’s arm and stopped at her face. Tears silently slid down her cheeks from dark green eyes, making him ache to kiss those tears away like he had so many times in the past.

He shook the thought off. This was a new land and he was not pack.

Lukina acknowledged him, refilled all three glasses then planted herself in the chair beside the couch. “You’ll want to sit for this.”

He shook his head, “I prefer to stand, thank you.” At least he did until he’d glanced at Katarina’s sad, desperate eyes. “Okay, I’ll have a seat beside Katarina.”

Nicholaus moved a pillow, plopped down beside Katarina. Reluctantly, he threw his arm around her. When she didn’t flinch at the contact, he pulled her closer. He found her body temperature warming slightly, probably from the alcohol.

As upset as he was for having his sleep interrupted, he couldn’t help himself. Snuggling closer to Katarina seemed natural, save for the absence of Krystyna on his other side as the third in their supposedly undying bond. “What’s so important?”

Lukina crossed her legs, looked back toward the mountains in the distance. “I love what you’ve done with the place.” She reached for her port.

Gritting his teeth, Nicholaus leaned forward. “While I don’t mind the interruption of former pack mates, I do mind losing sleep. So you’d better start telling me why you’re both here.”

Katarina began sobbing on his shoulder.

Smoothing a hand down her back, he pulled her tighter to him, holding her and rocking her back and forth gently just like he used to do when they were younger.

Her tears pooled on his shoulder. He used the cloth of the robe to gently wipe away her tears, then pushed her back and looked into her large, round eyes. It hit him then. “Where is Krystyna?” Another pack healer, she shared in the triad that should have included Nicholaus and Katarina before he left.

Lukina lifted her head. “You know we have a new Alpha.”

“Yes. And?”

“Józsi took over after he killed Kiba. The necessity of his ascending to the rank of Alpha is predicating Prophecy is coming true, despite some stubborn males’,” she almost spat the last two words out, “desire to avoid responsibility.”

He lowered his gaze. “I could care less about prophecy. Where is Krystyna?”

“Prophecy has dictated that Józsi would rule our pack for a time until his rule has passed. In such time, we would have great enemies.”

He narrowed his focus to just Lukina, glaring sharp daggers at her. She clearly wanted to remind him of duties he shirked years ago and nothing more. The least she could do was answer his question. “Again,” his impatience ran thin by now, “You’re quoting bullshit nobody need bother me with. Where. Is. Krys?”

“She’s been kidnapped.” Katarina blurted the words out, and then began to sob.

Nicholaus stiffened and felt his blood turn cold. “What? How the hell could that be? She’s a strong warrior and can fend off any attackers. Who did this and who let this happen?”

Katarina sobbed louder and fell forward onto his lap.

“Son of a bitch…Who let this happen?” Nicholaus shifted his weight on the couch so he lay against the arm. He pulled Katarina into his embrace, stroked her sides and arms in an attempt to calm her.

She rested her head against his stomach and wrapped both arms around him while his robe muted her cries.

Nicholaus ran his fingers through her long dark red hair. He massaged her scalp, tried to send calming energy into her but found himself unable, probably from exhaustion. Of course he hadn’t had to use much energy since he’d been in the States.

No need when you rarely went out other than to function as a human and occasionally as a wolf.

Of course his body couldn’t ignore the fact that her head was by his hardening groin. Of course he’d felt the throes of lust the second he’d spotted her earlier but he’d refused to acknowledge them, preferring to retire alone with his hand for the night.

Her nails dug into his bicep, bringing him back to the matter at hand.

“You did.” Lukina glared back at him, daggers in her gaze.

He stiffened. “Little girl—”

Lukina loomed forward, hard to do for such a little girl compared to Nicholaus, but she still could cut down a grown man with her sharp tongue. “No, you left, you bastard. You left your mates to die at the hands of a murderous Alpha just like my bastard mate did before we recovered him.” Lukina’s voice rose in pitch, indicative of her infamous temper.

Nicholaus’s jaw set. Yes, her seething expression put him off but he couldn’t be bothered with that. The first course of action was to figure out who kidnapped Katarina’s lover. “Skip the past bullshit, woman. Who took her?”

He tried again to ease Katarina’s sorrow but found himself lacking in the energy department. The heat in the room rose along with Lukina’s seething expression.

“The males of this pack are fucking stupid.” She cocked her hand back to toss the glass toward the island in his kitchen.

Before he clenched his fists, Katarina lifted her head.

In an instant, the air calmed, Lukina’s energy waned and things returned to normal.

Surely this was Katarina’s healing power.

“I’m sorry.” Lukina drew out a sigh. “I’m just so frustrated.” She closed her eyes, let her shoulders relax, then faced Nicholaus. “A rival pack is waging war against us, Nicholaus. They’re trying to throw the Hungarian wolves out of our lands. They’ve succeeded already by overtaking a few of the smaller packs on the outskirts of the country and have decided to move inward.”

“Do you know who is leading them?”

She shook her head. “No, not a clue. We know it’s a bunch of Turkish wolves and that the night I left to come back for Józsi and Ilona, they ransacked the village Krystyna was healing in. They kidnapped her and a few others who were loyal to Kiba.”

“Kiba’s dead now. It shouldn’t matter.” He rubbed his chin and breathed out a sigh.

“Right. But we’re a new pack now with Józsi coming into his true position.”

Nicholaus rubbed his chin. “So what now?”

“We need you to come back with us and assume your position beside Józsi.”

The blood in his veins turned to ice. He stiffened, jerked back against the couch and felt like he’d been punched in the gut. No. Not again. That was not the fate he’d had in mind for himself. Quiet retirement among the humans suited him better than being the one responsible for more blood being spilled. “I don’t understand. You can’t mean…”

“You have a gift. You used it to protect your lovers once. You can—”

“I used it to protect them, but I had to deal with the aftermath and fall out. Do you know what it’s like being an outcast? Because you did what supposedly came natural to you? We’re killers and aggressors, Lukina. That is our nature.”

“And we’re pack mates and a family. That is also our nature.”

Katarina’s words stunned him into silence.

“You don’t have to,” she sniffled, “If you don’t want to but…”

He didn’t want to hear this shit. Not after what Lukina was asking of him.

“You don’t have to come back and slaughter an entire hoard, that’s what I’m saying,” Lukina cut into his thoughts. “We need all the males we can get to help. Józsi as Alpha is doing the best he can but he’s only helping us build and gather resources while we go out and find the lost members of this pack. Some of you didn’t leave by choice.”

“You say that as though my leaving was a bad thing.”

Lukina glared.

He looked away, turning his gaze on the mountains in the distance. At this hour, the urban hip hop club was shut down and their neon blue lights had been turned off. Street lights remained the only way humans could see. His wolf’s vision trumped humans and allowed him to see into the mountains. He sighed, unable to fathom the consequences of what Lukina asked of him.

“Has the pack not solidified under Józsi’s rule to become a force again?”

Lukina shook her head. “He’s having trouble adjusting, going through mood swings, addictions, time differences and relearning the cycle of what it means to be a wolf. Something some of us will never forget.”

He didn’t miss the bite of her words. Nicholaus narrowed his eyes. “Go on.”

“So yes, we have a new, non-crazy Alpha but he acts erratically sometimes. No, before you ask, he’s not sick. He’s not adjusting well.”

Józsi never wanted the position of pack alpha?”

“No. But he can’t fight fate.” Katarina lifted her head again and met Nicholaus’s gaze. Her green eyes burned with desperation, pleading with him to ask more questions.

”No,” he sighed heavily, rested a hand on the back of Katarina’s head, “I suppose no one can in the end, can they?”

She shook her head. “It’s all you have to do. Come home. No one is asking you to use your gift, just give us one more able body in search of Krystyna.”

The syrupy softness in her voice made his heart pound. Imagine that, after all this time.

Not like he’d ever forget.

She batted her eyelashes.

Air fled his lungs at the simple gesture. Yes, she would use her body to pull him; all the women of the pack did that with their true mates. Nicholaus fought the urge to swallow, lest he show fear and renege on his vow to avoid pack politics.

Her hand slithered up his chest, fingers spread.

Warmth flooded his chest, spread throughout each limb, including the one currently cradled beneath her belly and his pants. “This isn’t fair, Katarina.”

“Neither was letting us go, but you did it anyway.”

Even she could hold onto spite. Tilting his head, Nicholaus closed his eyes, let himself succumb to the comfort of her power before it sunk into his body. He saw the fertile lands of Hungary, the smell of Lake Balaton on the wind. Then he saw the village and the faces of those who feared him after he’d slaughtered her family in cold blood. He’d heard the screams from her brother and father, his teeth remembered the feel of soft flesh filling his mouth along with their blood.

The eyes of those lecherous men vowing revenge on him kept him awake at night. And now they stared back at him, wicked grins across their distorted faces.

Laughter, maniacal and high pitched, echoed through the night.

“You’re the one who could be the downfall of our entire race if we let you ascend to your position and impregnate them. We do what we do to these girls out of protection.”

“Never!” Nicholaus found his voice though his throat was parched. He remembered very clearly rushing Katarina’s father first, then things went dark.

Nothing, not even the pale moonlight shining brightly could erase that memory.

Then, the vision was gone, returning him to see Lukina standing in front of him, glass precariously held with two fingers while her eyes were closed and she drew in steady, slow breaths.

“You’re seeing something incorrectly again, aren’t you?”

He looked down at Katarina, felt, rather than saw her body curl into his.

“I’m seeing nothing.”

“Fine,” she sighed. “Come home, please?”

Nicholaus closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. Her ability to make him function when he didn’t want to kept him going after he’d murdered her father and brother. She had been the calm to force his hand, make him get out of bed daily. At least until he stopped visiting and decided to make haste to America. “What can I do that others cannot?”

“You have more power and physical strength. You have a distance from the events we do not. Józsi would trust your word, drágám. You would be able to help steady him and provide us with one more pillar of strength. Józsi needs that, as does the pack.”

Nicholaus blinked and waved a hand beside his face. “Let me get this straight. You want me back to help rescue Krystyna and stabilize a pack that has turned its back on me? Fuck that shit.”

“It didn’t turn on you. It feared you.” Katarina’s soft voice cut through the red he began seeing.

“You’re right. They did fear me. Then they ostracized me. So I did the only responsible thing I could.”

Lukina walked back toward the kitchen, brought back a whiskey bottle. She refilled all three glasses, “You don’t get it, do you? They didn’t fear you; they feared the unknown. Your behavior was no longer consistent because the change forced you to fucking grow up!”

Katarina moved, rolled to her side and cuddled closer. “You only needed—”

“Skip it.”

“Fine.” She huffed and reached for the now full glass. Bringing herself to a sitting position, Katarina took a sip of the whiskey, wiped her lips with the back of her hand, then faced Nicholaus. “You are going to remain hard, aren’t you?”

He didn’t reply. What was there to be said? The choices he’d made in life were the ones best for everyone else. Prophecy be damned!

Of course it would have helped him to know what fate he was truly avoiding by living a solitary existence. Without the large details, he could only remove himself, thus keeping his mates safe from the danger of his rage.

He’d done well too. Only lost it a few times and his opponents happened to be other wolves.

Well except for that one man.

He didn’t kill him though.

But still, the potential for overwhelming violence to his mates had been removed by his relocating to Albuquerque.

Ultimately, he thought he was removing the threat to his lovers, but he guessed not. “What happened after Józsi took over?”

Lukina planted herself in the thick leather chair beside the couch. “After Józsi killed Kiba and returned back with Ilona and I, we put him through training. He made the choice to bring in an interim of three of our strongest to rule, but that proved a mistake. Those wolves were lecherous, traitors. He had no choice but to banish two of them.”

“The other?” Nicholaus knew where this was headed.

“He killed first.”

“Nicholaus, you look shocked. Why?”

He glanced at Katarina and saw his reflection in her eyes. Indeed he looked stunned, though he shouldn’t have. Their species wasn’t all flowers and candy canes. They were wolves. Bred by the Goddess, designed to hunt, kill, eat, fuck, and repeat until death.

“We’re not monsters, Nicholaus. Those who would do harm for bad reasons are the monsters.”

He shook his head, “I know. It’s just…”

“Just what?” Lukina leaned forward, crossed one leg over the other. “You can’t even face your mates with any of the shit in your head. Why are you embarrassed?”

He stiffened, clenched his teeth and glared at the little redhead. She’d grown more emboldened with age. How irritating. “You would do well to end this now, Lukina.”

“Or what? I laid into Józsi and you’re not my Alpha.”

“No but you would do well to remember you’re a guest in my house. And I can throw you out now if I so choose.”

Katarina set her glass on the table before them. She looked at Lukina, “Please save your vendetta for later. We need to catch flies, not burn bridges, sweet wolf princess.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Lukina huffed and leaned back into the plush chair. “I’ll hold my tongue out of respect for you, but your mate has his head up his ass.”

What the hell was he supposed to do now? Obviously Lukina had a grudge, not that he could blame her. There were a few other mates missing from the pack, but mostly the males had fled responsibility out of—well who knew truly? He had his reasons.

Swallowing his pride, Nicholaus leaned back, forcing himself to relax. How he felt like a prisoner in his own home was beyond him, but once the wolf princess showed up on your doorstep, regardless of time, it meant shit needed doing. “Fine, what is the minimal I can do?”

“Your gracious offering is most generous,” Lukina snorted.

“I have a life here. I live here. Outside the pack, away from all that.”

“Yeah, you ran. I get it. But we need you.”

He turned his head. “No one needs me.” The words came out more or less a low whispered growl.

Katarina slid down the length of his body, pressed her breasts into his thighs. Then, she looked up, set her hands on his legs and pulled him to her. “I’ll always need you, szertõm.”

Again, comforting warmth surrounded him and his skin lit up with the colors of their combined aura.

He closed his eyes, not caring to see their auras blend. It’d be one more thing to drag him back to a life he couldn’t live with.

“Have you truly grown that complacent, Nicholaus?” Katarina’s thumb traced circles on his thigh.

He shook his head. Complacent wasn’t the proper phrase, more like didn’t give a damn. But his body language should have made that clear. “I told you, I washed my hands of that shit years ago.”

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PRINT Cover Reveal – His Reign: Paranormal Menage Romance

HisReign-CScoverrevealThought I’d drop this out for you folks. I have the print gallery on my desk and it’s time to share.  THIS is the final home for The Opeth Pack Saga – my Menage series dealing with a legendary wolf pack from Hungary.  

The inspiration for the series started out as me being disillusioned with the ending for the anime “Wolf’s Rain.”  I liked the series, but it was so heavy and the moments of happy were fleeting, as were the moments of hope for the heroes.  SPoiler alert, shit breaks bad, very bad.

Eventually I’ll update the actual Wix site with new covers and more fun facts but for now, here’s the cover for the PRINT release!

Oh, and don’t forget, the book is LIVE on June 2nd, so grab your copy on AMAZON and have it delivered then!

Blurb:  Destiny didn’t have to suck. Not if you could run six thousand miles away to escape what was supposed to be your fate. Józsi wants to maintain a normal life, away from the politics and Prophecy of the Opeth Pack. Moving from Hungary to Texas was a huge change but a needed one in order to escape the fate of wolves that would ultimately put him in charge of a dying pack he wanted nothing to do with.

Ilona and Lukina grew up loving Józsi while preparing to accept their roles as Opeth pack healers even as he left them ten years earlier. Unafraid of fate and supportive of the things brought on by Prophecy; they found themselves facing the current pack Alpha in his madness. With the current climate change and insanity causing harm to the pack’s females, including Ilona, Lukina makes the choice to reunite the triad, even if it’s just to deal with the current regime.

When Lukina appears on Józsi’s doorstep, he must decide if returning to Hungary is because he wants to reunite with his lovers, or because of sworn duty to them. Will he make the right choice even at the cost of his freedom or will he let his triad down by returning to Houston, alone?

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Release of Three Times More Lucky – An Erotic Menage Boxed Set

Three Times MORE Lucky-Six sexy tales of ménage and more by the publisher of Three Times Lucky

A crash landing leads to three hearts united. ~ Triad by Kim Carmichael
Sometimes the one that got away comes back… ~ Love Squared by Christina Ashworth
Four men and one woman discover the power of Worshiping the Goddess in a hot time travel to the ancient Celts. ~ Solera Winters
In the dark forests of the heart, love is waiting… ~ Snow by Erzabet Bishop
They may have succeeded in having a ménage by Monday, but on Tuesday, everything had gone to hell. ~ Threesome by Tuesday by Louisa Bacio
Come ride the road hard… ~ Road to Seduction by Sascha Illyvich

My excerpt from Road to Seduction –

How the fuck could she possibly have pissed off a biker gang?

Let alone one full of…

Wait for it.

After what seemed like an eternity, the red light turned green.

In twenty-nine years alive, she had never processed such an idea and couldn’t make her lips form the words.

Then, Cynthia gunned the engine on her bike and the rumble drowned out the impossible thought.  She headed through a quiet neighborhood onto a major highway and let the steady hum of the cruiser’s engine attempt to settle her nerves.

Ride the Road HardNuns.

Seriously? She’d done one very common thing that nobody was supposed to have seen.  Her sex drive had been bothering her and she hadn’t had a man in at least six months, maybe more.  What was the big deal? So, Mother Blair O’Hennessey didn’t knock on the door when she entered, and stumbled in to find Cynthia spread eagle, curved steel wand between her legs, moaning the Lord’s name.

Definitely in pleasure, but not in worship.

The fury in Mother Blair’s green eyes had been enough to melt steel and iron.  Without a word, she closed the door and waited outside.

Cynthia knew Mother O’Hennessey hung around because she was quite loud when she slumped heavily against the door.  She wasn’t nearly as loud as Cynthia’s moans and distracted mind.

The wind blew her hair past her while cutting across her skin.  Fucking Minnesota winters.  The rumble of the engine would normally have aroused her, but she kept thinking about the ridiculousness of her fear.

Nuns.

Outlaw biker nuns.

If they hadn’t brandished large crosses and chased her out of the sanctuary and away from that very scrumptious blond virgin with long legs, lean muscles, a youthful, yet mischievous expression and an impressive cock; if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes, she’d never believe such a thing could have happened.

The road swerved and took a downward slope, making her stomach jump into her throat.  Cynthia downshifted, lay off the throttle and let the curve of the road take her where she wanted.  Wherever it was, she had no clue.  It sure as hell beat whatever the nuns had in mind for punishment, though.

Seeing the straightaway, she kicked the bike into high gear and leaned into the next curve, gripping the handlebars tight while bending forward, eyes focused on the road ahead.  It didn’t matter where she ended up, as long as it was far away from the nuns’ territory.

Slowing the bike for a huge S-curve, Cynthia let the memories fade away while focusing on the drive before her.  She needed to get out of Minnesota.  Maybe New Mexico held promise.  She had family there, didn’t she?received_10209509849527751

A distant relative.  Hopefully she could stay with said relative while she regrouped over a few days and figured out a new plan.  She was so not going back home to pick up her old life and her boring, dead-end job.

At least the weather wouldn’t be as cold and frigid as it was now.  Wrapped in her leather jacket, hip hugging blue jeans and mid-calf level boots with two layers of socks, she kept warm, save the stinging wind in her face.

She was just about to thank the goddess for no cars on this stretch of highway when she spotted tail lights ahead.

Then the fog around her set in.

Wait, it wasn’t fog.  Light rain.  Damnit.  Thank the gods she’d worn leather to protect her from the elements, and her helmet would provide some cover to keep her glasses dry.

Having sped down the 25, she’d left Cheyenne in a hurry to get to Colorado.

She checked her rearview mirror, then looked over her shoulder.  So far, she’d lost her pursuers.  Getting more distance between them would make her life easier and probably be better for her poor heart.  Taking the trip for an adventurous life was one thing, but seriously?  Those nuns were lunatics.  Whoever heard of good Catholics being members of a biker club, let alone one that–how were they outlaws again?

Oh right.  They couldn’t tell her.  They were bound by some ancient text allegedly passed down by some saint as the word of—what was it?

She shook her head, no longer caring about minor details.

Moving quickly through that state would get her far enough from those crazy bitches and give her space to think about her next move.

received_10209509848447724The car’s lights seemed to creep closer.  Rusty gray, paint chipping in places, she spotted the out-of-state license plate and figured that the bastard didn’t know the area, which was why it was going so damned slow.  Cynthia held her breath, slowed down until she was right behind the offending vehicle.  Unable to yell at the moron, she glanced past the dumpy Ford and saw nothing in the opposite lane.  She slowed more to put distance between her and the car.  When she felt comfortable enough, she gunned the engine, swerved to the left, passed the car and cracked a grin at the offending slow-poke moron.

Turning her head just in time to hear the blare of a semi’s horn, she cut the piece of fuck Ford off, only to hear another loud horn blast before increasing her speed.  The sound of tires screeching startled her and made her grip the bike tighter.

Now, adrenaline coursed through her veins at maximum speed.  Cynthia wasn’t a biker, far from it, but the rush of riding the open roads felt freeing, made her realize she’d been living a lie the past five years.  Her plain, well-paying office job bored her.  The same commute to work, day in and day out, had begun to drive her mad.  Cynthia  needed to get out and see the world; she wanted to travel and have adventures.

Of course, nearly getting smashed by a speeding eighteen-wheeler had her heart pounding fast enough that she thought for a second it might burst through her chest.

As if that’d happen.

She’d get hit by the shit-ass Ford, first.

Cynthia shook her head, pulled herself back to the reality of the road. Concentration was paramount now that the sky had darkened to a shade of gray.  She spotted a sign for a rest area up ahead and decided a few minutes rest would let her gather her wits to calm down from the near death experience.

Cynthia pulled the bike off the freeway, found a parking spot near the restroom and covered area, then turned off the engine.  Removing her helmet, she shook out her hair, dismounted from the bike, set the helmet on the seat, and strolled toward the covering, annoyed at the falling mist.

The building façade was stone and hopefully provided a clean restroom.

Nothing would compare to the spotlessness of the Sanctuary.  Then again, nothing would compare to being chased by outlaw biker nuns, either.

Striding into the tourism building, she flung open the glass door, looked down the hall to her left, and saw nothing but a rack with a bunch of brochures for Wyoming.  Why anyone would visit this state in December was beyond her.  It was downright frigid.

Luckily, it hadn’t started snowing yet.

She spotted a sign to her right, indicating the restrooms.

Tired, and with a hitch in her step, her legs sore from sitting for the past three hours, Cynthia made her way into the restroom, leaned over the sink and looked into the mirror.  Lifting up her glasses revealed just how tired she was.  She turned the tap on.  A quick blast of water to her face woke her up.

This morning’s escape had sapped her energy.  She’ had to run out quickly, taking only what she could shove in the knapsack of the bike she stole.

Oh yeah, she forgot about the fact that she’d stolen Mother Blair’s bike.

The big hog would need to be returned.

Eventually.

On the one hand, her driving skills were unmatched. But on a bike, the feel was different, the closeness of the road below her, the tires gripping the asphalt gave her a different sensation when she rode; one she hadn’t acclimated to yet.

So, it was by luck that she ditched the main freeway and lost the nuns only hours ago.

The last two hours, she kept checking over her shoulder and in her rearview mirror to see if they had picked up her trail.

The door behind her opened, Cynthia felt a chill and her stomach clench in fear.  Two large women, both wearing leather and smelling of stale tobacco and whiskey walked into the restroom, boots clicking against the tile floor.received_10209509849327746

Cynthia ducked her head, splashed water on her face once more and dried her hands quickly, then slid her glasses back on before making her way to the door.

“Hey, you.”

She didn’t bother to turn around, but she stopped, hand on the handle of the door.  Her pulse quickened, breath hitched.  “Yeah?”

“You look like someone we’re searching for.  Know anything about that bike out there?  We ain’t seen Mother Blair ‘round heah.”

The Southern drawl threw Cynthia off.  She hadn’t expected to find anyone from the South this far west, but then again, these women didn’t look like they were from around this area.  The shorter, heavier one had her brunette hair pulled back tight into a long ponytail.  Her cut said biker, but Cynthia didn’t recognize the name.  Blue jeans and thigh length black boots only added to the image and scent of danger around this woman. The scowl on her face didn’t help, either.

“I don’t know anything about that.”  She choked the words out, coughing and making sure to keep her face hidden. Yanking the door open, she took one step through the exit before being stopped by a large hand clapping her on the shoulder.

“Good.  If you see her, tell her Mad Dog and Fish were looking for her.”

Cynthia forced herself to swallow the lump in her throat. “Yes.  If I knew who you were talking about, I’d surely pass along the message.”  Her voice sounded meek to her ears.  Good call, this adventure thing.

“If we find out someone stole her bike…there’ll be hell to pay.”

The one closest to Cynthia stepped forward, putting her fist to her chest. “You know what they say about a mad dog, don’t’cha?”

“No.”  Cynthia shook her head.

“A mad dog always gets what it wants.”

Again, she let her words come out as more a whisper.  “I’ll remember that.”

“You best.  Now git.”

Cynthia ran out of the restroom, back into the cold.  She frowned when she saw the first snowflakes hit the ground and begin to color the pavement.  Shit.

How the fuck did bikers travel in the snow?

And how was she going to take off with those two lug-nuts hanging around?

Jingling the keys in her pocket, she waited a full minute before deciding that her best course of action was to just hop on the cruiser and take off, hoping those two were just as dumb as she wanted them to be.

In her fantasy adventure, this wasn’t part of the fun.  This was scary.

Those two women loomed without even being close to her.  Well, until Mad Dog cuffed her on the shoulder.  Then she very much asserted her size and status.

Screw it. In a dramatic fashion, Cynthia fingered the keys, palmed them, then headed for the bike.  She grabbed her helmet, slid it on, straddled the bike, checked her mirrors and plugged the keys in.  Before she started the engine, she looked around, heart nearly in her throat.  Back out, gun it and hit the highway?  Or do something to slow the two butch bitches down, since at any moment, they could walk out and spot her on Mother O’Hennessey’s bike, and catch her in the obvious lie.

But the snow…

Cursing herself for her lack of preparation, Cynthia looked up at the sky and groaned.  She hadn’t bothered to read the weather reports.  Having been on the road for the last few months had taught her a lot of things, but Cynthia was lax in some of the more basic ideas, such as tuning in to the local weather channels to gauge riding conditions.

Zipping her leather coat up tight around her neck, she still felt her heart pounding in her throat.

Then she spotted the cause of her adrenaline spike.  One booted foot stepped out of the tourist building, followed by a long, thickly muscled leg, followed by another.  “Hey!  That’s Mother O’Hennessey’s bike!  You’re the bitch we’ve been looking for!”

Both women started running toward Cynthia.

She didn’t wait around.  She revved the engine, gunned it and nearly lost her balance as she spun the bike out of the parking lot and zoomed across the stretch of road until she cut across gravel and grass onto the main highway.

received_10209509847847709Soon, two more bikes had hopped on her tail.  Cynthia swallowed.  Those two goons were a lot better on a motorcycle than she was, had been riding longer, probably.  She cursed herself again for only having picked up this hobby when she decided to leave Minnesota and her old life behind.  So, total?

Four months of riding experience.

Not wasting any time, Cynthia put the cruiser into high gear and kept her eyes on the road, rather than looking in her rearview mirror or checking nervously behind her.  The mistake could cost her, she knew that much.

Of course, when gunshots went off, Cynthia remembered what she’d heard somewhere.  Serpentine.

She began weaving in and out of the two-lane stretch of highway, her heart pounding in time with each bullet that ricocheted off the ground.  Fuck!  They were aiming for her tires!

“What the fuck kind of biker gang full of nuns carries weapons?”

She didn’t waste time finding out.  Spotting a semi coming in the opposite direction, Cynthia forced her nerves to quiet.  Maybe the large truck could provide some cover if she swerved around it.

Headlights flashed, a horn honked and Cynthia swerved off the road and onto the shoulder, the loud roar of the engine nearly deafening her.  Wind bit into her cheeks from the speeding truck.

“Focus, Cynthia.  Your life is on the line here!”  She tore her gaze from the truck that zoomed past her and back to the road.  Steering the bike back on the highway, she kept her eyes peeled for an exit ramp, hoping to lose these two chicks like she had the nuns earlier.

Bullets kept punching the pavement near her, but thankfully none had even come close to the tires.  What kind of shots were these two broads, anyway?

Cynthia’s one good skill, the one her deadbeat ex taught her, was how to handle a firearm and never miss her target.  But this wasn’t a home invasion or a range, and she didn’t have her gun on her.

Damnit.

Left it back at the Sanctuary.

The roaring of two motorcycles grew louder.  Shit, they were catching up.

While she had always wanted to live on the edge, this wasn’t quite what she pictured.

She was definitely in the danger zone.received_10209509847807708

Damnit. Cynthia had an idea, but it was the new version of her speaking in her mind.

Spin around and charge them.  They’ll split up and have to regroup.  Then you can lose them.

“But how?”

That’s for you to figure out, genius.  I’m just the new, adventurous you.

Letting out a sigh, Cynthia looked ahead; saw no cars in the opposite lane.  It was worth a shot.  She was dead if she didn’t try something, right?

Her bike seemed to be slowing down.

Looking at the gas tank, Cynthia cursed her luck one more time.  Empty.  She was surely dead now.  Maybe she could talk her way out of this.  She remembered Mad Dog telling her that she always got what she wanted.

The bike slowed and she heard the dreaded sound of two more motorcycles coming up behind her.  Pulling off to the side of the road, Cynthia reached into her pocket, felt for her cigar torch and found it, sighing in relief when she wrapped her cold fingers around the metal case.  She stopped, hopped off the bike, and slid her other hand in her pocket.  She made sure to remove the lid from the gas tank.

The two brute women followed suit, each dismounting and pointing pistols at her.  “You lied to us.”  Mad Dog pointed at the bike.  “You’re not only a thief, but you’re the one we was told to keep an eye out for.  So, hand over the keys and we will kill you quickly.”

Cynthia shook her head, praying silently that she could escape unscarred and unharmed.

“What do you mean no?  You dumb, bitch?  Or do you have a death wish?”

False bravado had helped her out in the past.  Maybe it would save her bacon again.  “Neither.  You’re not killing me.”

“What do you mean? I have a gun.  Fish has a gun.  Everybody but you, got a gun.”  She started laughing.  Fish, the taller, slightly leaner woman actually had two guns, both pointed at Cynthia.

Fear made her heart hammer against her ribcage, but she forced herself through the pain and made her mouth work.  “If you come closer, I will spark this, and drop it into the gas tank, blowing us all to bits.”  She smiled.

“You’re not that batshit.  Ripping off La Familia is one thing, but you’re not an outlaw.”  Mad Dog stepped closer, gun still pointed at Cynthia’s chest.

With a flick of her wrist, Cynthia popped the top off her zippo.  “You know these are good for life, right?”

Fish took a step forward, her leather jacket creaking when she adjusted her aim.  Her eyes narrowed.  “I could drop you now and save us both the trouble.”

A chill raced through Cynthia from that angry stare, but she held her ground. “You probably want the bike back more than my life.  Don’t you?”

Both women nodded.

“Put the guns down.  I’ll return it.  Just let me get out of here and get where I’m going.”  She moved her thumb over the wheel of the zippo.  “I will get the bike back to Mother O’Hennessey.  I promise.”

Neither woman made a move.

“Are you deaf or just stupid?  I’m not kidding!”  Cynthia’s voice raised, her agitation increasing at the stupidity of these two airheads.  She bent forward, sparked her lighter to show just how serious she was.

The two women backed up.  “You’re going to get a lot more than just us on your ass if you do that.”

“I don’t care.  I don’t want to die today.” Cynthia held the lighter closer, mentally counting her stars and thanking whatever gods existed that the first sparks didn’t land anywhere near the tank.  “I only want to get away.  You two can ride another day.”

Mad Dog holstered her handgun. “Fine.  But this isn’t over.”

Fish followed suit and both mounted their bikes.  Engines revved, they peeled out and zoomed down the highway and out of sight.

Cynthia sank to her knees, the cold, wet ground beneath her soaking her jeans.  She wanted to scream her thanks at the luck of her situation, but then the two idiots might come back and shoot her.

They didn’t have to know that her zippo was a cigar torch, not a soft flame lighter.

But now what?  The bike was out of gas, town was gods only knew how far away, and the snowfall had increased.  She had some money.  Remembering her cellphone, she reached into her pocket to pull it out, only to sigh in frustration at the fact that she had no service.

Maybe, just maybe she could make it back to the tourist stop and call AAA.

Straddling the bike, she turned the engine and it clicked, but refused to start.  She looked again at the gas gauge, aware that sometimes they were wrong as a preventative measure.

Nope.  Completely empty.

She had one move.  Wait a few minutes for Butch and the Sundance dyke to get far enough away so she could begin pushing this monstrosity back to the tourist shop, or walk and hope the bike didn’t get stolen.

Cynthia chose to push the bike back to the tourist spot.  It couldn’t be more than a few miles.

The wind howled, and snow started pelting her eyes.

“Fuck my life.”

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