Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Twisted Teaser

Yayyy!!!! Twisted Teaser Time! Try saying that after a few glasses of vino. 

So this scene...I wanted to share it with you as a little taster for what's to come. A lot's gonna go down in Twisted, some of which is pretty violent and downright scary, some of which is a little softer. Zeth and Sloane's relationship is hopefully gonna have you squealing in this instalment. Our man is opening himself up a little more, but we're also going to be seeing a lot more of the darker side to him in this book, too. I hope you're ready!

Please be aware that this is an unedited excerpt and subject to change.


I open the door and there she is, sitting on the sofa—a sofa that was once white but is now mottled with splotches of bright, ruby red. She’s been bleeding. She’s been bleeding all over that fucking couch, and I was off running around Seattle, trying to get Lacey to calm the fuck down. I should have been here. I should have known she was hurt. Her face in the back of the car when Michael drove her away was totally washed out, her expression terrified, but I’d put that down to the ordeal she’d just been through. Not even considered for a second that one of those shots had gotten lucky. I silently enter the apartment, feeling my pulse throbbing oddly in every single part of my body. I’m measured and careful as I set down the duffel I’ve carried inside and walk towards the table in the middle of the room. I can’t go straight to her. I can’t even look at her. I’m struggling to keep my fucking cool; there’s a desperation inside of me that’s demanding to be answered, though no good can come of that. Sloane won’t be better if I smash up my apartment. She won’t be magically healed if I break every last stick of furniture, smash every single plate, punch holes in every single wall I can reach before my knuckles turn raw and bloody.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
She nods, looking like a small child bundled in the blanket she has tucked around her body. “It was just a graze.” She gingerly lifts her left arm, indicating where she was hurt and wincing at the effort. “Still hurt, though.”
Fucking hell. I can’t believe she was actually shot. Graze or no graze it should never have happened. I suddenly regret not doing more damage to that DEA agent; that would have been a small consolation for what they did to Sloane. I brace myself against the table and close my eyes, trying to somehow maneuver past the urge to go on a rampage. Trying to breathe through it all. If only Dr. Walcott, the psyche guy from Chino, could see me now. Well done, Zeth. Gold fucking star, Zeth. Keep it up.
“I’m sorry, okay?”
My head snaps up. Sloane’s eyes look huge in her face—she’s staring right at me, unblinking, and she looks exhausted. And heartbroken. And a hundred other things I can’t even put a name to, though none of them good. “What are you sorry for?” I whisper.
She swallows. Her head tips back to rest against the sofa, and I can see the fine strands of hair plastered against her forehead. She’s been through hell tonight; you can see just from looking at her that she’s in pain. “I’m sorry for leaving the warehouse. We took Michael, though. I thought…” She trails off, like the effort of even speaking is just too much for her.
I am a wretched, wretched man. I wasn’t here to help her, and she thinks I’m mad with her. Fuck. “You have nothing to apologize for, Sloane. Never apologize to me again.”
She makes a surprised sound at the back of her throat, a combination of choking and pained laughter. “I’m sure you’ll be taking that back in a couple of days.”
I shake my head. Pull in a deep breath. I’m not really ready for this, but I’ll probably be waiting forever to get to a point where it seems right to feel the way that I do. To not be absolutely fucking stunned by how weak it makes me feel. “You’re never going to apologize to me again, Sloane. If you fuck up and make a mistake, that’s on me. If you get hurt, that’s on me. For as long as you’re willing to tolerate being in this situation, everything that happens to you is on me. I’m the one who’s sorry.” I straighten up, scrubbing my hands through my hair. I can hear sounds in the apartment: Michael taking care of Lacey, making sure she’s okay. He’s been here this whole time, watching over them while I couldn’t. I feel sick.
“Zeth, come here.” Sloane’s holding up a hand—the right one, her uninjured arm—and the image, the very sight of her reaching out toward me makes my stomach feel like it’s filled with ice water. She shouldn’t still be doing this; she shouldn’t still be reaching out. She should be pushing me away by now, but she’s not. And I’m the worst kind of monster because I’m relieved. So relieved that my body feels like it’s going into shock. I walk toward her, not quite sure what to do when I get there. I don’t think I’ve ever been unsure of anything in my life. Ever.
Sloane doesn’t seem to be having the same problem. She takes ahold of my wrist and tugs at me gently, pulling me down to sit beside her on the sofa. She places my hand palm up in her lap, and carefully traces her index finger across the lines, creases and callouses that I’ve collected over my lifetime. They’re not the focus of her interest, though. It’s the multitude of scars, deep and ugly, that her fingertips linger over.
“You might be responsible for the fact that I’m not sitting at home, watching a rerun of Seinfeld on my own right now, Zeth. You might be responsible for the fact that I’m not voluntarily working an extra shift at the hospital. I had a safe life, I did, I know that, and it really does suck that being shot at is now a part of my everyday routine. But…” She takes a deep breath. “You heard what I said to Oliver. What I told him…how I feel about you. I did mean that. So while you’re responsible for a lot of crappy things right now, you’re also responsible for that. You’ve woken me up. You’ve made me stronger. You’ve made me feel something I thought I’d never feel.”
My head is spinning. I want to curl my fingers closed and withdraw it from her touch, but that seems like the coward’s way out of this conversation. I leave my hand where it is, forcing myself to hear it. To hear her say the words. To feel it, too. 
“I know you probably never wanted this, Zeth. I can understand why. But I do…I do—”
“I know,” I say, cutting her off. I may have heard the words once today already, but she wasn’t actually giving them to me. Handing them over to me like a fragile, delicate gift. A gift so overwhelming, and confusing and undeserved that I feel like packing up my shit and leaving the fucking state. She was telling someone else, and I’m not prepared for her to be telling me just yet.
“What are you afraid of, Zeth?” she whispers. “Why am I scaring you so badly right now? It’s not like I’m expecting you to say it back.”
I laugh, unable to fight it anymore. I just can’t help it; I close my hand into a fist. “I’m not scared of you, Sloane.”

She gives me a sad look. It’s the kind of look that can make a man feel two inches tall. “Yes, you are,” she says. “Of course you are. You’re terrified.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

While We Wait...

So Fallen is still not live, which is making me very sad indeed. From your posts on Facebook, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say it's making you guys sad, too.

To keep you going, I've decided to give you the prologue of Fallen. Hopefully that will tide you over until Zeth and Sloane show up....

Castle Security offices

Jimmy Renford

Five forty-seven a.m. Five forty-fucking-seven a.m. I hate clocking in for the early shift. I’ve been doing nights for the last three months though, and I think they decided it was time I put in the hard yards. That’s fair enough, I suppose. However, working with Myers is something else entirely. The man has no sense of personal hygiene, and also has no idea when to shut the fuck up. I’ve only been rostered with him three or four times since starting work here. Since then I’ve heard from the other guys that to land a shift with Myers is a punishment of some sort. I’m here on time; I’m never late. I do the job well, so I have no idea what ball I’ve dropped to deserve this shit. It ain’t gonna fly, though. Today is gonna be all-out hell.
The bank of screens in front of the desk where Myers and I are stationed are already filled with images of people, awake and going about their early morning routines. It’s never seemed right to me—that the world never seems to stop moving. That there are people always awake, no matter what time of day or night, for us to witness on the screens of these monitors. We are Big Brother, overseeing the mundane rituals and the sometimes highly illicit activities of Seattle’s residents. We see everything, and I mean everything. It even creeps me out sometimes, and I work here.
“So I told her, ‘bitch, if you really want to get on with my sister, you can’t be talking to me like that in front of her. I’m her baby brother, you know? She’s always going to stick up for—’ Hey! Hey, Renford, check that out. The feed's gone live for the new gas station account. Did you notice that? I can’t believe they want us to watch over eighteen new places.” Myers nudges me a little too hard with his elbow, and the takeaway coffee cup I’ve been stirring sugar into rocks dangerously, nearly spilling the hot black liquid all over my crotch.
“Careful, asshole! You nearly burned my dick off.”
Myers just laughs his annoying donkey bray of a laugh, completely unfazed by the clear dislike in my voice. I’m not even pretending to hide it. Not that Myers seems to care. “Whatever, man. Hey, and check that out.” He stabs a finger at the bottom right-hand screen, the one right in front of me, gesturing to the vehicle that’s just rolled onto a gas station forecourt. I know the gas station; it’s the one out by the airport. I’ve used it enough times before to recognize the layout and the busy street out of the building’s window, as the camera’s view rotates from the outside to an internal shot.
Myers is still staring in awe at the car that’s just pulled up to the pumps. It’s an Aston Martin one-77; the kind of supercar little boys dream about owning one day, while they’re playing with the Matchbox version. This monster of a car is being well cared for. The bright sheen to the hood speaks of a wax polish that must have been done very recently. Even I have to agree that it’s a beautiful machine.
“I’ve thought about test driving one of those things,” Myers says, stuffing a piece of buttered toast into his mouth. “You know, you can go down to the dealership and pretend you’re interested in buying one. Wear something nice, make them think that you have some money or something. I figure that’s the only way I’m gonna find myself behind the steering wheel of a car like that,” Myer says, brushing crumbs from the outside of his mouth. “You never know, though. I might win the lottery one of these days.” Myers continues to ramble on about playing the odds in some sort of betting ring he is involved in, offering me a buy-in if I’m interested, but I’m not listening. I’m looking at the man who’s just climbed out of the backseat of the car. I know the man, although a lot of people wouldn’t. He’s an A-list celebrity. The kind of celebrity that only people in certain circles would be acquainted with. He’s mentioned on the news sometimes, but not in the entertainment section; they report about him in the section that covers the unsolved murders and brutal beatings that sometimes take place within the darker corners of this city. They never say his name, although I am well aware of it: Charlie Holsan.
Charlie Holsan has just gotten out of that ridiculously expensive car and is now walking into the gas station. A tall, unfamiliar-looking man gets out of the driver’s seat and follows Charlie inside. I don’t know the driver, but I know Charlie quite well; he’s been my brother’s employer for the past eight years. Eight years of Sammy never answering his phone, and never showing up to family events. Eight years of me bailing Sammy out of jail when his boss has been too busy to send someone himself. Eight years of my brother becoming more and more corrupt, as this English prick sinks his claws just a little bit fucking deeper.
I hate the man.
Charlie and his driver don’t get gas; they both enter the building, dressed in their ridiculously expensive suits, their Italian leather shoes shining under the bright glare of the gas stations strip lights. They start perusing the shelves, looking for…looking for I don’t know what. We’ve been trained to spot people like this—people who look like they’re killing time. It generally means that they’re about to hold up the place, but somehow I think armed robbery is a little below Charlie’s pay grade. If he were short on cash, which I don’t think he is, then he has a whole crew of mindless goons who can perform such menial tasks for him.
“Lucky bastard,” Myers says, shoving more of his breakfast into his mouth. “What do you think? Personal banker? Lawyer? He looks like a fucking lawyer. Gotta have some serious money to afford an Aston.”
If Myers were one of the other guys, someone I actually like hanging out with, I might break my silence and tell him what this man does for a living. As it stands, I simply reach forward and hit the lockout button that prevents the screen in front of me from scrolling through to another camera somewhere else in the city. Charlie and his hired help continue to pace around the store, picking up random items from the shelves and talking to one another. Charlie selects an item from the shelf and says something to his henchman, laughing. He tosses the packaged item to the other man, who opens it and starts to eat the contents inside. Over Charlie’s shoulder, the door opens and a young woman walks in, talking on her cell phone. She doesn’t look up. She doesn’t notice Charlie and the other guy stop laughing and look at her. She has a big bag strapped over her shoulder; it looks unwieldy and awkward to carry. She walks to the checkout and sets it down at her feet, laughing at something that the person on the other end of the phone is saying to her.
I have a bad feeling about this. I don’t know what it is, but something…something just isn’t right. The men aren’t buying anything, and they seem far too focused on this young woman to be merely showing a passing interest. I think about reaching for the radio and getting the boys onto this, but what would I say? I can’t explain how I know Charlie, how I know that this middle-aged guy who looks like your average businessman is actually a crime kingpin, wanted for countless murders and crimes of drug trafficking. If I did, then that would definitely be getting Sammy into trouble. The punk deserves it for sure, but my mom sure as hell doesn’t.
The girl’s paid for something over the counter, and Charlie and his friend have stopped their horseplay and have queued up behind her. The driver moves to one side, while Charlie bends down and collects up the girl’s bag for her, holding it out to her as she turns around. It’s a kind thing to do, and the girl grins at him as she accepts the bag.
“Whoa! Hang on a second,” Myers says. He leans across me, his eyebrows bunching together. “What the hell is that guy doing?”
I’ve been too busy watching Charlie as he tricks this girl into believing he is a gentleman to notice the other guy; he is standing really close behind her, and it looks like he’s holding something up to the back of her neck. Something sharp; something silver; something glinting in a fuzzy patch of white through the CCTV camera’s low-res feed. Adrenalin slams through my body. “Holy shit! He’s going to rob her or something. He’s actually going to do it.”
Before I react, the siren on the wall behind me begins to wail, loud and piercing; the cashier, standing on the other side of the Plexiglas right in front of the three people in the gas station, has a closer view of what is going on there, and he obviously thinks this girl is in danger, too. He’s hit the alarm. “Fuck. Do it. Call the emergency response unit.”
Myers might be an asshole, but he reacts quickly. He’s on the line, giving the cops the details of the robbery in progress and then he’s dispatching the security unit employed by Castle. I’m having trouble peeling my eyes from the screen. The driver and Charlie have both stepped away from the woman, and whatever it was the driver was holding up to the woman’s neck has now been secreted away again; the cashier has come around the front of the booth—moron! They’re told never to do that—and is trying to force Charlie and the other man out of the gas station.
Charlie’s driver pulls a gun. Things have descended into the realm of ‘fucked’ very quickly, but as soon as that gun comes out, I know it’s game over. I can see it all happening—the cashier trying to be a big guy, rushing the other two men, the gun going off, the cashier falling to the ground…
But the gun never goes off, and it’s not the cashier who falls to the ground. It’s the woman. The cashier turns, and his complete horror is perfectly visible even through the crappy camera footage. Charlie says something, and then the driver is pushing past the cashier, snatching something up off the counter. He stoops, pushes the girl over, and lifts her shirt up, baring her stomach.
“Oh fuck. He’s not—he’s not gonna—” Myers says. I know what he’s thinking. He’s thinking the driver is going to sexually assault her on top of whatever he’s already done, but he doesn’t. He bends over her body, blocking whatever he’s up to. His shoulder shifts up and down for a moment and then he pulls the girl’s shirt back down to cover her belly. He throws something down on top of her where she lies—something long, and thin, and black—laughing. Now that he’s no longer obstructing the camera’s view of her, it’s plain to see there’s something wrong with the girl. There is something seriously wrong with her. She struggles back up onto her hands and knees on the floor, and it looks like she’s retching, her body jerking violently. The cashier rushes to the girl’s side, placing an unsure hand on her back, his mouth moving as he speaks frantically to her.
Charlie and the driver casually stroll out of the gas station...and the woman on her knees begins to vomit blood.