Monday, September 19, 2011

Bernadette Marie and The Art of Writing!

Scribal Love Welcomes Bernadette Marie

The Art of Writing About Pancakes

By Bernadette Marie

Approached with a blog tour, and at least twenty different topics, you begin to grasp at ideas.  I’ve been very blessed with my writing.  I find the challenge refreshing when someone says, “write about this or write about that.”  So I put it to one of my eight year old twins.  “What should I write about?”  His reply…pancakes!
When you think about a pancakes, you think about the batter.  It can come from a box or be whipped up from scratch.  You need all the elements before you start and a hot griddle to cook them up.  But a pancake doesn’t have to be just plain.  No.  You can add a delicious array of yummy treats.  Chocolate chips.  Berries. M&Ms.  And my niece’s favorite, Reeses Pieces!  Add milk, eggs, a little sugar, splash of vanilla and pour onto a hot griddle.  Remember, when cooking a pancake, the edges must be firm and the bubbles in the middle must be few or you can have a real mess.
What in the world does a pancake have to do with writing a book?  We follow the same process.
Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser you need the ingredients to make a good story.  You need to know what you’re going to write about and a plan of attack.  Do you need to plot out every scene?  Do you only need an idea in which to fly?  

Mixing your batter for your story.  Do you have a whisk or a toothpick.  Is it going to be easy to guide through the facets of the story with the right amount of conflict and tension or are you going to have to add your own delicious array of yummy treats?

Is your story in need of berries and candies?  Will you add something sweet or tart?  What does your story need to drive the reader to the next bite?

Now throw it down and watch it sizzle.  Remember, even in your story, if you don’t turn it at the right time its either going to break or burn.  If you burn it, your reader will be left with a bad taste of your story and your writing.  If you break it, well, we’ve all put down a book before it was over.
Once you’ve got the story bubbling just right, flip it.  Make it golden brown and serve piping hot to the readers while they are hungry.  Go back to the kitchen and whip up another batch, because if you’ve added the right ingredients and mixed in the right amount of yummy treats, they’re going to be hungry all the time and you’re going to want to feed them.


Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends.  Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter.  At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years. 

In 2007 – after marriage, filling her chronic entrepreneurial needs, and having five children – Bernadette began to write seriously with the goal of being published.  That year she wrote 12 books.  In 2009  she was contracted for her first trilogy and the published author was born.  In 2011 she (being the entrepreneur that she is) opened her own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, and has released contemporary titles and will begin the process, eventually, of taking on other authors in other genres.  Also in 2011 she became co-owner of Seven Songs Press and will release a novella as part of an anthology with other very talented authors in November 2011.

Bernadette spends most of her free time driving her kids to their many events.  She is also an accomplished martial artist, working her way to her second-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.  An avid reader, she enjoys most, the works of Nora Roberts and Karen White. She loves to meet readers who enjoy reading contemporary romances and she always promises Happily Ever After.

TWITTER: @writesromance


Regan Keller fell in love with a wealthy and powerful man once. He was her boss. When that turbulent relationship ended, she swore she’d never again date someone she worked with. That was before she literally fell into her new boss’s lap.

Zachary Benson is the head of a successful empire and used to getting what he wants in the boardroom and outside of it – and what he wants is Regan Keller. He’s determined to convince Regan that even though he’s her boss, they can share a life together.

However, when Regan’s past threatens to destroy the architectural firm Zach has invested his entire career in, he has to make an executive decision whether to choose his business or fight for the woman he loves.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We've Embraced Our First Editor! Jean Watkins Is An Editor With DCL Publications!

Scribal Love Welcomes Jean Watkins

So tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been an editor?

I’m just me. Lol I am a mother of two who wears many caps. I began editing in 2006 when Pam and Stuart decided to give me a chance to try it.

What do you like about your job?

I love helping authors tell their story better. It has to be pretty well told on their own, I just tweak it to help the flow. It is my number one priority for the author’s voice to shine.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Me personally, I’m not interested in writing. I love reading stories spun by others. I enjoy “traveling” to new places and “meeting” new people. What really irks me is when the details don’t match, people switching “then” for “than”, stuff like that…it’s like nails on a chalkboard and jerks me out of a story. When Pam was starting DCL, she asked a mutual friend of ours on a loop if she would be willing to edit for them. I got nosy and emailed Pam off on the side to ask what exactly an editor did. She told, we talked, Stuart sent a pamphlet he was working on for me to try out and been here ever since.

What do you and DCL look for in a manuscript?

First of all, it has to be a story; it has to flow like a movie in my mind. If it has a few stops and stutters, I can deal with that because I usually have a suggestion or two to make to the author to help it flow better. If it is just a bunch of random scenes chunked together (and yes I have seen some like this unfortunately), then I can’t do anything with it. I have seen synopses that sound pretty good, but the stories fell flat. But then I have seen where the synopses aren’t all that, but the story telling is great. I try to be fair and I look at the overall picture with what the authors submit to us and not judge them based on one or the other.

How would you describe the house style at DCL? (i.e. is it face paced, sweet and romantic or just depends?)

On my side of the window, it’s fast paced…I’m always doing something. From other’s pov that are not behind the scenes like I am, they may not see us that way.
Do you have any favorite genres?

I grew up reading the Hardy Boys series, a few Nancy Drew, but the boys were always more exciting to me. Lol I love my mysteries, horror, romance, sci-fi, erotica, comedy, young adult, inspirational…I have a wide range and it just depends on my mood.

What are some of your latest projects?

Currently, I’m working on getting our older books cleaned up and converted for Kindle, trying to keep up with edits, do new releases. Then I will begin learning to do EPUB files so I can tackle Nook next.

Are there any hints or tips you could give a prospective author looking to submit with DCL?

First and foremost, if you don’t have someone reading your work like a critique partner, read it out loud! This will help you to notice that your complete thought didn’t make it to the page or that you missed a crucial bit of information that will make everything tie in.

And…keep trying! Keep working on your craft no matter how the rejections pile up. You may be “ahead of your time” or you may just simply need a few books under your belt to perfect your story telling. None of us started the race running; we all had to crawl first.

Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote today?

I think DCL has a little something for everyone. We have Vampires, Mysteries, Sweet Romance, Regency, Contemporary, Native Americans, Steamy Romances, Sci-Fi, eclectic stories, Time Travel and so many others currently available with several new authors on the way.

(I would name drop, but I don’t want to leave anyone out!)

Thanks for dropping by!
Thanks for inviting me, Claire!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Call For Submissions- Honor Guard Line- Decadent Publishing

Decadent Publishing is actively seeking stories that fit our new Honor Guard line.
The Honor Guard line is composed of contemporary multi-national romance stories with a heat level of 3-5 and word count between 10k-30k.

Setting: US embassies around the world. The hero can be any alpha male having to do with embassy operations: Marines, MP, CIA, Homeland Security, NSA, etc.

The heroine can be an American or foreign national. Her age should be 25+ (can be Late Escape--romance between couples age 50+--as well). If your setting is in India, Australia, Norway or wherever, we need "local flavor". Tap your travel experiences!

If you write about the military, make sure it's accurate. Give us fun, adventure, romance, interesting settings, strong characters and hot lovin' combined with cultural insights. HEA is mandatory.

Decadent is also taking submissions in our popular 1Night Stand line and is open for general sunmissions in the following catagories. Please keep word count between 5-50k at this time.
See SUBMISSIONS page on the website for details.

Historical paranormal romance
Late Escape romance (couples who are 50 years of age or older)
May-December romance
Comedy (romance or mainstream fiction)
Time travel (romance or mainstream fiction)
Erotic Romance
GLBT (especially F/F)
Non-Fiction (Biography, historical, memoirs, autobiography)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Blood Kissed Series Featuring 'Of Course I Try' and 'The Ghost of Vampire Present' by Seleste deLaney

Scribal Love Welcomes Seleste deLaney

What is the name of your novel?

I actually have a short story and a novella in the Blood Kissed series right now: Of Course I Try and The Ghost of Vampire Present

What first attracted you to writing vampire fiction?

I actually swore for a long time that I wouldn't write any more vampire fiction because it's so notoriously hard to sell, but the draw of sexy men with eternal life proved too much to resist. I think vampires are kind of Peter Pan for adults. They never grow old, they can sometimes fly, and fairly often, they become obsessed with an ordinary mortal. There's a reason Peter Pan is a classic, I mean, who doesn't want a guy to swoop in their window (in a non-creepy way preferably) and hang on their every word and move?

Who is/are your main character(s) and is he/she a vampire?

My main character is Jocelyn Reyes, and she's actually the (mostly) ordinary mortal. Both of her love interests, however, are vampires. Max Shaw and Chad Akerman come from different times and have hugely different attitudes toward romance, being a vampire, and Jocelyn.

How would you describe your vampire character? Is he/she a lover or fighter? Is the beast within held at bay? Or does he/she go with her passions?

I'm going to have to answer this separately for each of them.
Max is the lover who is willing to fight when the moment calls for it. As a lover, he's very sensitive to Jocelyn. When it comes to violence, he's Mr. Walk-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick. He would never go looking for a fight, but he also wouldn't hesitate to kill someone if necessary. He's definitely the more likely of the two to keep a tight rein on his vampire impulses. He has a carefully laid plan for most things that will make the fewest waves possible.

Chad, on the other hand, is much more in-your-face. He's cocky and likes to mouth off, which can get him in trouble. As a lover, he introduces Jocelyn to things she's never done--he likes his kink with a side of bondage. When it comes to fighting, he's less worried about keeping things quiet, and more intent on getting the job done. While he's not necessarily likely to vamp out randomly, hiding his vampire powers isn't at the top of his priority list. His plans are usually brash, but he is quicker on his feet when the time comes to decide what needs to be done.

What are your thoughts on some of the traditional weaknesses of vampires? Sunlight, crosses, wooden stakes etc. Did you incorporate any of that into your fiction? If not what were some of the weaknesses that your character must avoid?

I use them to a degree (some of which doesn't come out until the novel-length piece that I'm still working on). In my mythology, as vampires age, they are overall harder to kill and a simple stake through the heart won't do in one that's a few centuries old. Younger vamps, however, are vulnerable to such things unless they have special protections. The same goes for sunlight and fire. Since my stories don't have a religious bent to them, I don't utilize the holy relic angle.

Go crazy and tell us about your book! Include an excerpt if you like!


"Of Course I Try"

Love is a wonderful thing. Unless you don't get a choice in the matters of your own heart.
Jocelyn has loved Max since the day she met him. Even when he scares her enough to leave, she can't resist going back. No matter how many times she tries to break free from him, she ends up in his arms and bed again.

Not this time. Jocelyn needs to be free, and Max isn't going to stop her from walking away -- no matter how hard he tries.


(Warning: This story starts off steamy so it’s for mature audiences only!)

When I came to his house tonight, I'd come to say goodbye. I remember that, even as his hands cup my breasts, squeezing them tenderly and rolling my nipples between his fingers. By the time Max lowers his head and sucks one tightened bud into his mouth, I can't recall why I wanted to leave.

Candles and patchouli incense burn in the room as my body writhes against sage sheets so soft they feel like silk. They aren't, though. I know his silk sheets—they’re black. The low light and spicy scent play on my senses, intoxicating me until the room disappears.
All I know are his hands and mouth on my body. Rough and soft. Dry and wet. Cool and warm.

His lips cover mine, and I give myself to the kiss as he reaches down and tugs off my panties. I'm wearing the lace ones. I'd come to say goodbye wearing the black lace panties he loves. But by the time they're gone, I don't consider why I'd do something like that because Max's mouth has left mine and traced a line down my abdomen.
I know I should fight this, but I can't. I don't want to. I want Max—for as long as he'll have me.

Rough hands cup my ass as he wedges my legs apart with his shoulders. Then despite, or maybe because of, the little moans that betray me, his lips travel lower, trailing kisses down to the inside of my thigh. His breath tickles as he hovers there, reaching out his tongue to trace a shape on my skin. It's a heart. I don't know how I know, but I'm sure.

"Please, Max—" A little voice in my head screams that I should finish the sentence with "stop", but I don't. I can't.

A deep chuckle vibrates against my clitoris, making a shiver run all the way to my toes. Then his magical tongue caresses the already sensitive nub, and I cry out. He sucks it into his mouth just to the line where pain and pleasure meet—treading it but never crossing over.

I'm helpless beneath him, a prisoner to my body's yearnings. My back arches off the relative safety of the bed, and Max takes full advantage. With the ease of years of practice, his hands slide beneath me, pulling me closer to him as his tongue delves into me.
I can't think anymore. I can only feel. The pressure of his hands on my ass. The silky motion of his tongue inside me. The rough grazing of his teeth.

My hands clutch at the soft, green sheets and ball them in my fists as pleasure rips through me. I've never experienced orgasms like this with anyone else. Only Max. Wave after wave of sensation as my muscles contract around his tongue. It's never stopped moving, never stopped drawing me to my peak.

I cry out his name. The only word that matters. Max.

Soon enough, I can't even feel. Then there is nothing.

When I wake in the morning, everything is hazy. I remember coming over, remember the sex. The incredible, mind-altering sex, but then I'm blank. It isn't the first time.

There's a note on the pillow next to me.


I'm glad you came back. You have no idea how much I missed you.

Love forever,


Something clicks in my brain, and I realize it isn't the first time I've read those words either.

"The Ghost of Vampire Present"

Jocelyn has finally found her knight in shining armor in Chad, and ghosts are the last thing on her mind. Even when one shows up in her bedroom on Christmas Eve, Jocelyn's a bit more concerned about the other guests on the agenda. She'd prefer to never see another vampire, and the ghost tells her to expect not one, but three.

When the one from her past shows up even though he's supposed to be dead, she decides she's dreaming and suffers through the night. By the time dawn breaks, she's not so sure anymore.

But if it's not a dream, that means her nightmare is far from over.


“Wake up!” a shrill voice commands.

I bolt upright, startled from a dream involving a castle and riding a horse bareback, blankets tumbling from shoulders covered with nothing but thin spaghetti straps. My breath comes out in tiny puffs of condensation as I yank the blankets back up. My eyes dart around, searching for whatever woke me. Where my clock should be is another black space in the darkness.

Another power outage. Fabulous.

“Damn it, girl, get some clothes on. If you're dressed in nothing but a nightgown when they get here, you‟ll never survive the night.”

My head jerks toward the sound. There she stands, at the foot of my bed, the tiny slip of a woman I'd barely known but recognize instantly by her glowing white curls and delicate features. Grandma Cooper. Even her dress is familiar because my mother had said it was in poor taste to bury the dead in white. Makes them look washed out. But even the choice of her funerary outfit had been part of Grandma‟s will, and though we didn‟t know it until she died, Grandma spent a lot of money to have lawyers who made sure every instruction was followed to the letter.

My mouth goes dry and my fingers shake as they reach beneath my pillow. Sure, I know her on sight, but she still shouldn't be here. And that means a weapon isn't the stupidest idea ever. But, if I turn my head to the side at all, she disappears as if she‟d never been there in the first place. Only when I look straight at her does she have substance, her body catching enough of the moon's light coming through the window to be visible against the darkness. And apparently with enough solidity that next time she speaks, her hands grip the covers and jerk them right off me.

“I told you to get dressed! Chop, chop!”

For a long minute, I sit there shivering in my nightie and staring at the blankets in her hands. “'re dead.” Please don't say vampire. As I think it, I realize she can't be one. Regardless of whatever else they can do, I'm pretty sure vamps can't disappear without moving.

“As a damn doornail. It doesn‟t change the fact you messed with the way of things and the time has come for you to face some hard facts.” Her eyes actually twinkle as she smiles. 

“And I've been waiting a lot of years to help you figure all this out. Now, time's a-wasting. Get up and put on some damn clothes.”

She's the antithesis of the fairy godmother I‟d always wished for. All she needs now is a lit cigar between her fingers to totally bastardize that particular childhood fantasy. By this point, I already know I'm dreaming. I mean, shit like this doesn't happen, right? I banish the idea that I shouldn't have watched my boyfriend turn to dust when I shoved a stake into his heart either, and instead, I do what any sane person would do when they want out of a dream—listen to the ghost. I get my ass out of bed and go to the closet. Then I grab my heavy terrycloth robe and start to slip it on.

“Oh no you don't. Trust me when I say you‟re going to want something a little more versatile.” She yanks my flannel-lined jeans and a thick, green cable-knit sweater from the depths of the closet and hands them over.

When the power comes back on, I‟ll roast, but I‟m not about to argue with a dream-ghost. Then again, no electricity means no light, and since Max, I‟m not very fond of the dark anymore. 

After tugging the clothes on, I say, “Fine. I‟m playing along, but I refuse to do this with the lights out. So if you don't mind, could you magic-up some electricity or something?”

She snorts. “No, but the power's coming back on soon enough. I have it on good authority.” She waves me toward the living room. Once we‟re sitting— me curled up in the papasan, her slouching on the couch—she says, “Your mother never believed me about you. She said I was nothing but a crazy old woman with too much time on her hands to fantasize.”

“Wonder how often she says it about me,” I mutter. Mom has never made any bones about the fact she thinks I'm wasting my life or my insistence on waiting for Mr. Right. Then again, she hadn't approved of Max, so maybe she had a point.

“Not nearly as much as she said it about me. After all, you don't tell her all your secrets.” Grandma winks at me, her face suddenly looking years younger. “When she was a girl, I made the mistake of thinking she was the one, and I told her all of mine. She would've locked me up when she was fifteen if she could have.”

“And she wasn't 'the one'? Whatever the hell that means.” I couldn't help but wonder how Mom would feel about not measuring up to what Grandma expected. Maybe it would've made her go easier on me. I doubted it though. Especially since I don‟t have a clue what she‟s talking about.

“Ha! Hell no. I wasn't entirely sure it was you either, but then I saw how they treated you.” The power kicks on then, everything whirring back to life. She waves a hand, almost as if she has done it by magic. 

“Everywhere you went, at least one was around. When you started your cycles, hoowee, then it was like sharks circling prey. Of course, they never really knew it was you specifically. They could just sense something special and it drew them. But I knew.”

“Knew what? And why is there always a mysterious they? Who the hell are they anyway?” Apparently, dream-me tends toward the bitchy and sarcastic. I kind of wish I could drag her out into the real world upon occasion.

“Knew you were special to them. To the vampires.”

I squeeze my eyes shut, blocking her from view and praying when I open them, she‟ll be gone. Even with the wish firmly in mind, I can‟t stop myself from saying, “What vampires?”

She laughs, the sound half-snort, half-smoker‟s cough. “Most likely all of them. But you better get your little ass ready because three are planning to visit you tonight.”
I gape at her and, when a word finally comes out of my mouth, it doesn't exactly make much sense. “Three?” Because, you know, one or two would be perfectly normal.

“Are you deaf, girl? Yes. I said three: one from your past, one from your present, and one you haven‟t had the pleasure of meeting yet.”


“Don't interrupt; this is too important. One and only one can be trusted. When he comes to you, do what he asks. Your choices tonight can alter the fate of humanity, so for once in your life listen to your elders and don‟t be stupid.”

Thanks Seleste for Dropping by!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pretty Souls by Julie Particka- A Paranormal Young Adult Novel

Scribal Love Welcomes Julie Particka

What is the name of your paranormal novel?

Pretty Souls

Who is/are the main character(s)?

Elle, a bitten werewolf, and her foster sister Cass, a half-vampire.

What is it about?

Pretty Souls is the first in the (young adult) Paranormal Response Team series and it focuses on the hunt for a demon spawn who is stealing people's souls. It's kind of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-ish…without the training and back-up. Elle and Cass have to find their way in the supernatural world all on their own.

Is your main character good, evil or torn in between?


What are some of his strengths and weaknesses?

She has increased speed, strength, healing and senses of smell and hearing from her werewolf half. On the flip side, she is very insecure about her appearance and tends to get tunnel-vision, focusing on her prey and ignoring other possibilities around her.

What first attracted you to writing paranormal fiction?

I was really drawn to the mix of reality and fantasy because it's so full of possibility. Plus I love the idea of something "other" living right next door.

Go crazy and tell us about your novel! Include excerpt or blurb if you'd like!



My life followed a simple pattern.
Run to keep my inner wolf asleep. Make sure my blood-sucking foster sister, Cass, feeds. Hunt for supernatural trouble when we should be sleeping. Keep my grades up and my head down.

It was mostly a game.

Until people started wandering around like living zombies. Until people I care about started getting hurt. Until the menace came knocking on my front door.

Game’s over.

Time for the soul-stealer to realize just because he’s hunting something doesn’t make it prey.

Cass and I bite back.

~The Paranormal Response Team~
Saving the World Before Breakfast


Why couldn’t tonight have just been a normal night? I had homework to do; so did Cass. We might’ve been able to swing giving a wayward vamp a slap on the wrist for getting a little too friendly with a homeless person or something. But we really didn’t have time for anything weird.

Even with six years experience tracking scent trails, I still hadn’t known what to expect at the end of this path. But even my best guess sure as hell wasn’t to find Diego Martinez walking into the automatic doors at Sears. Especially since they’d been locked for hours.

Cass and I watched from the parking lot as Diego rebounded off the glass and stumbled back a few steps before striding up to the door again. “What do you think, Elle? Sleepwalking?” Cass tilted her head from one side to the other.
I pulled my lip between my teeth—thinking once more how I should really stop chewing on it—as Diego bounced against the glass again. “It’d seem like running into the door over and over would kind of disrupt his REM cycle.”

Cass shrugged, the movement shifting her black duster so the wind caught the hem and fanned it out behind her. “Well, why don’t we go see if we can wake him up? Unless that’ll make you get all tongue-tied.”

The breeze worked so much better for her than me. She got the avenging angel billowing coat. I looked like the victim of a tragic wind tunnel accident. I yanked loose strands of hair from my face with a grimace and snapped, “I’ll be fine.” It didn’t help my demeanor at all that when I tugged my hair away, several pieces of fur flew right back into my face. 

Whoever concocted the whole werewolf thing really should have done away with shedding.

“You sure, Sis? Don’t plan on drooling and falling all over yourself?” Cass moved toward Diego without waiting for a reply. What Cassidy wants and all that.

“Yeah. Completely over my Diego issues,” I said to the night air as I jogged to catch up to her.

She reached Diego, grabbed his arm, and whipped him around. “Hey, Diego, old buddy, you have football practice tomorrow. Shouldn’t you be in bed?” With his momentum toward the mall interrupted, Diego tried to walk forward in the new direction. Until he ran into the five-foot high, platinum blonde brick wall. Cass’s body didn’t repel him the way the door had, but she wasn’t letting him leave either.

“Damn it, Diego, just stand still.” I expected him to ignore me, too, but he stopped pushing against Cassidy and did the best impression of a statue I’d ever seen. A really hot statue with deep brown eyes, gently curling chestnut hair, bulging muscles, and....
Cass snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Yep, you’re doing great.” She rolled her eyes and turned back to him.

I snarled and squared my shoulders; my crush on Diego was a thing of the past. Not my fault he was still nice to look at. “His breathing isn’t steady,” I said, after listening for a few seconds. “How’s his heart rate?”

“Too fast for sleeping.” She parked her hands on her hips. “Drugs?”

A thin line of saliva formed at the corner of Diego’s mouth and dripped toward his collar, building a shiny bridge of liquid. He also started bleeding. The impacts with the door had left a small gash on his forehead. My eyes darted to Cass, who glared at him, then back to the blood pooling in the cut.

“No way. Diego wouldn’t do drugs; he’s smarter than that.” There was absolutely no reason at all to worry about the blood. It was just a little. Everything would be fine. I held my breath and watched as it dripped from the cut and ran down his face, mingling with the drool. “He actually looks kind of like a zombie.”

“Hello? Heartbeat and breathing. Definitely not a zombie.” Cass stood on tiptoe and waved her hand in front of his face. Without warning, she stilled and her nostrils flared. “Besides, his pupils are dilated. I vote for drugs.” She dropped to her heels and backed away.

“But I don’t smell about him.” If he was high, it should have left some sort of scent—in his sweat, his blood, something.”

“Yeah, well your nose isn’t exactly in tiptop shape like this, is it? I told you not to shift back so soon. But no—you see Diego and poof.” She made jazz hands. “Elle is human again.”

“It wasn’t like that.” Actually it was, but not for the reason she thought. We’d reached the end of the trail. There was no reason for me not to shift back.

“Sure it wasn’t.”

I closed my eyes and counted to five—she didn’t deserve the whole ten. “Whatever. I still don’t buy drugs.”

Cass turned on me and got right in my face. Not good, not good at all. “Use a little logic, Elle. Ockham’s Razor says drugs.”

“Who-ha’s what?”

She shook her head. “Ockham’s Razor. It’s a scientific principle that basically says that all things being equal, the simplest answer is usually right. Drug abuser trumps living zombie.” She turned and took a step away.

“Based on that theory, we shouldn’t be what we are either.”

Cass stopped and her shoulders tightened, stretching the coat across her back. When she finally spoke, it was through tightly clenched teeth. “No, we are the simplest explanation for us. We’re just the ones no one wants to believe.” She strode toward the edge of the parking lot.

“Drugs or not, we can’t just leave him here!” She spun around and glared at me with eyes that had grown much darker than their normal cornflower blue. “Fine, then let’s take the stupid, stoner jock home. Maybe in this state you can convince him you’re the love of his life.”

My teeth clamped down on my tongue. She’d avoided showing teeth when she spoke. If I’d had any doubts, that simple act confirmed my suspicions. We were in trouble. “Come on, Diego, let’s get you home.” I tugged on his arm and made sure to keep him downwind from Cassidy as much as I could.

Cass didn’t attack Diego on the way to his house, but she never dropped back to walk with us either. I hoped she was just irritated that we didn’t find anything more interesting. Hoped, but doubted it.

We slunk through the shadows behind the Martinez’s house until we had a clear view of their deck—and the sliding door with a bar across it. “Crap.” I dug through Diego’s pockets, searching for keys. Nothing. They probably had an alarm with coded doors.

“We could always break in.” Cass stepped out of the shelter of a towering pine tree and moved toward the door.

I yanked her to a stop. “Are you nuts? I don’t want to have to explain any of this when their security alarm goes off.” I didn’t want Diego’s problems, whatever they were, to get any undue attention either. I might have been over my crush, but I wasn’t a bitch.

“Fine. Then let’s just dump him on the deck and be done with it. He can sleep it off with the mosquitoes until the sprinklers wake him up in the morning.” Cass crossed her arms against her tiny frame and tapped her foot. Streetlights reflected off her eyes, making them look as black as oil.

I didn’t have a better plan and unless there was something else waiting for him, Cass posed the biggest threat to Diego. I looked around the yard with its enormous flowerbeds and lush green lawn. A deep inhale told me that a family of deer lurked in the trees nearby, and they were more of a threat to the chrysanthemums and asters than to Diego. 

My sense of smell wasn’t top notch in my present state, but it would have to do.

“Fine. The deck it is.” Cass tried to grab Diego’s other arm, but I brushed her fingers from his leather jacket and pulled rank with a look. “Stay here.”

I tried to lead him quietly up the wooden steps, but in his lumbering state, he tripped and made far more noise than I liked. And then the security lights went on. I swear this house is out to get me.

Luck must have decided to cut me a break though, since his parents didn’t come running outside.

“That doesn’t look very comfortable.” I glanced around at the metal furniture. Very weather-resistant, but not great to sleep on. A storage box next to the door held some thick, flowered cushions that I spread on the glider. Diego sat without resistance when I pushed him. “Look, your parents are probably going to be pissed if these get wet in the morning, but I can’t just—” I bit my lip to stop the babbling nonsense about to spew out of my mouth.

Diego stared at me blankly, and I willed him to say something. Anything. His silence hung heavy in the air.

Heaving a sigh, I started talking again. “Please just stay here. Your parents’ll help you in the morning.” Still no response, not even a blink. “Try to get some rest.” With a gentle nudge from me, he lay down and closed his eyes.

I gave him one last concerned glance before joining Cassidy under the pine tree.
She didn’t even bother trying to hide her toothy grin. “Is he all tucked in now? Snug as a bug in a—”

While she was busy mouthing off, I lunged for one of the fearless rabbits that live in our town. It must have decided we weren’t a threat. It was wrong. With the bunny gripped in my left hand, I drove my right against Cass’s throat, slamming her back against the tree trunk. Pine needles drifted around us as I glared at her and snarled, “Are you a freaking idiot?”

“What the hell? I was just kidding.”

I wished I could believe her, but since she talked with her mouth mostly closed, I couldn’t. Besides, she couldn’t hide her eyes. Stark, inhuman blackness coated her irises. I hated those eyes. Covering the shudder that ran along my spine, I pulled her forward a few inches then slammed her back against the trunk. For a moment, as more pine needles drifted to the ground, the rabbit ceased struggling in my grip. The lack of scratching was an improvement, but I hoped I hadn’t killed it by squeezing too hard.

“I’ll ask you one more time. Are you a freaking idiot?” My voice hissed from between clenched teeth. When Cass didn’t answer that time, I took a different approach. “When was the last time you ate?”

Her lips curved into a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, and she spoke with deliberate slowness. “I ate dinner earlier tonight, Elle. You know that. You were there. Jen made tacos, and Eric told us all about his boring day at work.”

My body trembled, but not with fear. Cass was so far gone she had the nerve to try to play with me. I supposed I had to count myself lucky that was all she was doing. I gritted my teeth and shoved the rabbit at her face. The movement must have made its shock wear off because it began thrashing around again, claws scraping at my forearm. “Eat it.”

Her ebony eyes shifted to the rabbit then back to my face. “I’m not in the mood for rabbit tonight, Elle.” Her fake grin slipped to something more condescending.

The expression came close to making my blood run cold. Not close enough though. I was furious enough to beat her senseless. “Too bad, because I’m beyond caring what you want. You were stupid enough to come out hungry. Patrolling without feeding? I can’t trust you like this, and we aren’t leaving until you eat the rabbit.”

Cass crossed her arms and, leaning her body against the tree like she didn’t have a care in the world, blinked at me. Long and slow.

I tried not to let my human instincts take over, but I felt my heartbeat speed up. The fear almost suffocated me, but I choked it down and shoved every inch of anger into my voice. 

“And really, I don’t care if I have to force you.”
Cassidy gave a tiny harrumph and raised her arm. “Fine. Whatever. Hand over poor, little, innocent Thumper.” My hand still gripping her throat, I slapped the wriggling mass of bunny into her open palm. 

Her eyes narrowed to slits when I didn’t let her go. “Don’t you trust me, Sis?”

Exhausted with her stupid games, I sighed. “Just eat the damn rabbit so we can go home.”
At long last she raised the animal to her face and opened her mouth, revealing canines that had extended to nearly an inch long. Without another word, she plunged her fangs into the bunny’s quivering flesh. I held onto Cass until the sucking noises reached a nice steady rhythm, and the muscles that had locked into place finally loosened. Even though I let her go, her lips stayed glued to the small animal, whose struggles had long since ceased.

The drained body of the rabbit hit the ground with a quiet thump, and Cass raised an embarrassed blue gaze to me. “I’m sorry.”

I simply shook my head—too tired to do anything else. “Don’t you ever do that to me again. Neither of us may be happy with the hand life has dealt us, but whether you like it or not, you have to feed.” I spun around, stalked into the woods, and headed toward home. 

“And I don’t plan on ever being dinner.”

Cass could follow me, or she could sulk until dawn. I didn’t care. I still didn’t think Diego’s problem was drugs, and I just didn’t have the energy to coddle a moping bloodsucker.