Posts Tagged ‘Nocturnal Serenade’

Nocturnal Serenade, book 2 in the Nocturnal Lives series, is now available. You can find it on Amazon or through Naked Reader Press. It should soon be available through Barnes & Noble as well as Smashwords and other outlets. The first book, Nocturnal Serenade, is currently available through Amazon. It will return to other outlets in the near future.

Here’s a quick blurb about Nocturnal Serenade:

Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

To go with the release of Nocturnal Serenade, I have a great new cover for Nocturnal Origins. I liked the original cover — and you can still find it on the hard copy version of the book — but I think the new cover is more accurate to the novel. Many thanks to Sarah A. Hoyt for the design of both covers.

Next month, my short story Nocturnal Haunts will also be coming out from Naked Reader Press. It will be available for individual purchase as well as being included in the anthology Sisters in Blood (Kate Paulk, Sarah A. Hoyt and myself). As soon as I have a publication date, I’ll post it.

So, I guess that’s about it for now. Back to the keyboard to write some more.



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First a couple of items of news, sort of.  First of all, Naked Reader Press has put up a preview of Kate Paulk’s upcoming novel, ConVent.  Kate is one of those writers who constantly surprises me.  She can do alternate history (Impaler) with a twist of the fantastical and then she can be split-your-sides funny laced with a healthy dose of cynicism and WTF (ConVent).  Any way, the first scene from ConVent is up at The Naked Truth and the book will be available for purchase the weekend of Oct. 21st.

The next bit of news is that The Naked Truth will be featuring previews of several new novels over the next few weeks, including Quicksand by C. S. Laurel, Cat’s Paw by Robert A. Hoyt, and my own Nocturnal Serenade.  There is also a guest post by Jim Snover, author of the wonderful steampunk/western short story  Blackie, that will be up on the blog sometime within the week.

As for the thought or two, do you remember when I blogged about how readers are beginning to look closer at what e-titles they buy?  As proof of that, there is a new thread on the kindle boards this morning asking how to tell what titles are written by “indies” and what titles are not.  Now, before you get excited, the original poster isn’t wanting to know what books and short stories are written by indies because he wants to buy them.  Quite the opposite in fact.  He wants to know so he can avoid them.  A quick look at the responses show that most of those answering are concerned by exactly what I — and so many others — predicted.  Poor editing, poor story construction, poor cover art, etc.  No longer is the low price enough to entice them into buying a title.  They’ve been burned before — too often, according to some of them.  Now they want e-books and short stories that only come from established publishers.

Does this presage a quick death to indie publishing in the digital world?  Nah.  But it does point out that authors, established and newbies, who want to go this route need to make sure they are putting out a quality product.  Editing, and not just copy editing and proofreading, is a must.  Decent cover art is also a must.  Now, I’m not sure about having “professional” reviews as some of the commenters suggested.  After all, for most of these so-called pro reviews, you have to pay.  That sort of defeats the purpose, imo.

What this means is that we, as writers going the indie route, need to make sure the product we put out is as good, if not better, than that put out by traditional publishers.  Mind you, in a lot of cases that’s not saying much.  But take a look at the e-books you’ve downloaded, especially the free ones.  How many have had weird fonts or strange formatting?  I’ll be honest, I’ve seen more than that than I have of e-books with horrible spelling or punctuation.  In fact, when I’ve seen complaints about that, and I’ve checked for myself, the spelling errors have usually been from the reader and not the author.  But, there have been spelling and grammar mistakes I’ve seen and, usually, I can attribute them to the author relying on spell-check and grammar-check.  Please, DO NOT DO THAT.

Any way, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the fundamentals of what makes a good e-book.  I’ll probably do that for Mad Genius Club for The Naked Truth later.  This was just to put the bug in the ear of all those who are considering self-publishing to be aware of the fact that there is a movement among some readers of e-books not to buy indies because of all the bad ones they’ve read before.  The moral of the story is to make sure you have the best product possible and that you have enough of a preview available for your potential readers to show not only that you can write but that you also hook them with the plot and the characters.



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I have been busy the last few months trying to balance my work with Naked Reader Press and my writing and family and, well, life.  All too often, the writing has had to take a backseat to it all.  However, that’s changing, mainly because I have deadlines of my own looming large and I have to put butt in chair and get serious about writing again.

So, what’s coming up?  First, my very first short story ever accepted, Bump in the Night, is now available for purchase from NRP and will soon be available from Amazon, B&N and other e-tailers.  Bump first came out in 2008 as part of the anthology Better Off Undead.

Next up is Nocturnal Serenade, the sequel to Nocturnal Origins.  I’ve snippeted Serenade before, but in case you’ve missed it, I’ll add short snippet below.  This series is close to my heart.  It’s one of those where the characters are almost a part of me.  Other writers will understand what I mean.  These books aren’t ones that I have to struggle to write.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I have to fight to keep from writing only in this “universe”.  There is at least one more book in the series after Serenade.  Of course, that also depends on how well the series continues to sell.

There are also a couple of other projects on the fire, with deadlines also coming up.  I’ll let you know more about them in the near future.  In the meantime, Nocturnal Origins is available in both print and digital versions.  You can find it through the Naked Reader Press storefront or through Amazon, B&N, etc.  The great thing about NRP is that there is no DRM added to their e-books.

So, without further ado, here’s a brief snippet from Nocturnal Serenade, coming out in November from Naked Reader Press.

*     *     *     *

Elizabeth Santos Wheeler dropped her head into her hands and closed her eyes, fighting back a sob as she did.  This was all just a bad dream and she would soon awaken.  It had to be.  No other explanation, reasonable or not, made sense.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if it was real?  Then what was she supposed to do?

Damn it, why was this happening?  It had nothing to do with her, not really.  So why was she the one forced to deal with it?

Because you’re the one with the most money as well as with the most to lose.  That’s why.

Resentment warred with fear, anger with the maternal instinct to protect.  For the first time in so very long, she didn’t know what to do.  It was as though her worst fears had suddenly sprung to life and she simply didn’t know how to react, didn’t know if there was anything she could do to protect herself and those she loved.

Damn it!

She shoved back from her desk and climbed to her feet.  As she did, she glanced outside.  Beyond the window, darkness swathed the yard.  Only the light cast from her window and the pale lights surrounding the swimming pool broke the darkness.  The leaves of the ornamental fruit trees on the opposite side of the pool rustled gently in the light breeze.  The oak trees shielding the yard from the golf course formed a dark curtain against the night sky.  In the distance, a neighbor’s dog barked one, twice, as if calling for someone or something to answer.  Everything looked so normal.  Yet it wasn’t and it might never be again.

Her lips pressed together in a thin, angry line.  She moved from behind her antique Georgian desk and began to pace.  Her steps were muffled, almost silenced, by the thick carpet.  She no longer heard the soft strains of the music she’d put on earlier in the evening when she’d come upstairs to work.  Instead, the sounds of her teeth grinding and her heart pounding filled her ears.  She didn’t have time for this.  She should be focusing on the Allingham case, not this – this stuff of nightmares.

As she turned back, her sea green eyes fell on the photos scattered across the top of her desk.  No one else looking at them would be this upset.  They would know with a certainty that the pictures had been faked.  After all, the images showed the unbelievable, the unreal.

But she knew better.  No matter how badly she wanted to dismiss the photos as a simple prank, she couldn’t.  She knew the images captured by some unknown photographer could be all too real, no matter how unbelievable they were.  After all, she’d lived with this particular nightmare all her life, waiting, fearing for the moment it would manifest itself in either her or one of her children.  Now it had and she didn’t know what to do.

Her fingers trembled as she reached for the nearest photo.  Her chest felt as though an iron band had tightened around it, making it almost impossible to breathe. Instantly she was transported back to that terrible moment she she’d first seen the picture.  Despite the fading light caught by the image, she’d immediately recognized the subject of the photo.  In that moment, she’d died just a little.  Even as her brain tried to close down, to deny what her eyes saw, she knew the truth and she damned herself for it.

Sharp pain and the bitter taste of blood brought her thoughts back to the present.  Absently, she dabbed at the lower lips she’d been gnawing without realizing it.  But her eyes remained glued to the photograph she held in her right hand and a soft moan escaped her lips.

Why?  Dear Lord, why?

A young woman knelt on the ground, her head thrown back, her expression filled with agony as her hands ripped at her tee shirt.  Her green eyes, just a shade darker than Elizabeth’s, reflected terror at what was happening to her.  Even then, the change was obvious, if you knew what to look for – and, much to her regret, Elizabeth did.

The young woman’s hands were altering, her fingernails lengthening even as the features of her face blurred.  Muscles rippled and bunched as her body was reshaped.  Hair seemed to sprout from every pore, short hair that was more fur than hair.  All of this was documented in the other photos strewn across the desktop.

A soft sob caught in Elizabeth’s throat as the photo fluttered down to the floor.  No, the image was all too real and her nightmare had finally come to life.  What was she going to do?

Not even the note included with the photos helped her decide what her next step should be.  A single sheet of ordinary white paper with just a few lines printed on it mocked her, revealing nothing about the unknown sender or what he wanted from her.

Mrs. Wheeler:

I thought you might want to see what your eldest daughter is up to these days.  Being a parent is such a trial at times, isn’t it?  I wonder if your other children will show the same bad habits as their sister.  But don’t worry.  I’ll be in touch soon to discuss what needs to be done.

That was all.

Mackenzie, what happened?

Unable to stand it any longer, Elizabeth abruptly turned on her heel and started out of the room.  Then reality once more intruded and she hurried back to her desk.  She couldn’t leave the photos where they might be found.

Without really thinking about what she was doing, she scooped up the photo she’d dropped and then those scattered across the desk top and shoved them back into the envelop they’d arrived in.  Once she had, she locked them in the top drawer of her desk and pocketed the key.  At least they were safely hidden from view, for a while at least.  But how long would it be before the photographer made them public?

And what would she do when that happened?

Her left hand slammed against the light switch on the wall by the door as she passed, throwing the room into darkness.  She had to do something, anything to find out who had sent the photos.  The envelope had been delivered to her office.  Hopefully, the receptionist had made an entry as to who brought in the innocent looking brown envelope.  She’d check the log and then decide what her next move should be.

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This past month, I’ve been focusing more on my writing than in previous months.  Part of it is because I have deadlines looming large.  Part of it is because the job is still as demanding as ever but I’m more confident in what I’m doing.  Of course, I still need to clone myself — as well as everyone else at Naked Reader Press — to keep up with everything that’s going on, but I’d rather be busy than twiddling my thumbs.

As I’ve mentioned here and at Mad Genius Club, part of the problem with my writing has been the number of stops and starts I’ve had to make because stories wouldn’t cooperate or I’d suddenly realize the book I was writing wasn’t the one I was supposed to be writing, etc.  Anyway, I thought I’d give you a taste of some of the different voices/plots/characters demanding my time today.  Then, if you feel you need to call the men in the white jackets, go ahead.  I need a nice vacation for a week or so.

From Hunter’s Moon:

Death is inevitable.  Try as you might, you can’t prevent it.  Medical science and a healthy dose of luck might postpone it, but that’s all.  Sooner or later we all die.  It’s what happens next that’s up for grabs.

Just because there’s no way around it doesn’t mean I want to die one moment sooner than absolutely necessary.  For one thing, the way my luck runs, the next phase very likely would not find me traipsing happily through the Elysian Fields or whatever you call the afterlife.  No, it would be my luck to turn into one of the creatures I’ve spent most of my unnatural life hunting and killing, all in an effort to keep humanity safe.

Unfortunately, it looked like my life had finally run out.  It was bound to sooner or later but, given a choice, it would be later – much, much later.

I admit it.  I was in a lousy mood.  Dealing with cops has never been my idea of fun.  Dealing with them in a dark alley before dawn and in the middle of a “job” ranks right down there with my least favorite things to do.  That’s especially true when the cop in question looks all of thirteen and is convinced he’s just seen me commit cold-blooded murder.

Damnation, I hate days like this.

Then there is this one that I’ve posted before from Skeletons in the Closet:

All my life, my mama’s tried to raise me to be a proper lady.  No, that’s not quite right.  She’s tried to raise me to be a proper SOUTHERN lady, full of refinement and grace, dressed in lace and delicate pastels.  To hear her talk, it’s been a futile effort that’s caused her more than her fair share of gray hair.  And, where the lace and pastels are concerned, she’s right.  Still, she’s managed to get me to say, “yes, ma’am,” and “no, sir”.  For the most part, I’m respectful of my elders, even when they don’t deserve it.  I even wear clean underwear whenever I leave the house – usually without any extraneous holes in it – because Mama is convinced some rampaging bus will find me and strike me down, necessitating a trip to the emergency room.

I swear, I think it’s her life’s dream that it will actually happen.  You see, in her world, a trip to the ER has only one ending.  The handsome, rich and oh-so-conveniently single doctor who saves my life will fall madly in love with me.  What she seems to forget is that in a bus vs. me battle, the bus will always win.  So, unless the doctor is also a re-animator, he’d be falling for a corpse and, well, ewwwwww!

Besides, having somehow managed to survive a close encounter of the nearly fatal kind, the last thing I’d be interested in is finding a man to settle down and raise a passel of kids with.  Not that it would deter Mama one little bit.  Hell, she’d probably arrive at the ER with her minister firmly in tow, a marriage license burning a hole in her hand bag, all ready to fill in the blanks and make me a married woman.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my mama rarely lets reality interfere with her plans.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can usually deal with Mama’s plans and manipulations.  I’ve spent a lifetime figuring out how.  All I have to do is make sure I look both ways before crossing the street.  Of course, the odds of a bus hitting me here in Misty Creek are about as good as the odds of Hell freezing over.  So I figure I’m safe – at least for the time being.

Knock on wood.

From Jubilee Plot:


He leaned back and nodded slightly, satisfaction filling him.  Who would have guessed he’d have found so many kindred souls in America.  Kindred souls with money and the patriotic fervor only those driven from their homelands seemed to possess.  Kindred souls who would do almost anything he asked, if for no other reason than to strike a blow against the English who continued to refuse to admit Ireland was for the Irish.

Perhaps Ireland would finally be freed from its English oppressors.

It was strange, and certainly now what he’d expected, but he felt at home here.  Chicago was live with commerce and trade.  Everywhere he turned, someone had an opportunity to offer.  Sure and he knew some were merely opportunities to part him from his cash.  But now, after several days in the city, he was beginning to understand why so many called this the Land of Opportunity.  Where else could an Irish Catholic who fled his homeland with nothing but the clothes on his back be able to make his fortune?

But it was more than that.  Parts of Chicago were more Irish than Ireland.  Even here.  The poorly lit pub was filled with voices, many of which sounded as if they’d arrived from Ireland not much before he had.  Mixed in with the lyrical accents he knew so well were the broader, flatter accents of those who’d never stepped foot on Irish soil but who were just as Irish as was he, in heart and mind if not in location.  Irish Gaelic mixed with English, lulling him into a sense of security, almost as if he was home.  Add to that the smells of too many people in too small of a space, stale ale, whiskey and smoke and, well, he could be sitting in his favorite pub in Dublin.

Familiar it might be, but it wouldn’t do to be careless.  Even here in Chicago, home of one of the largest Irish populations in America, the Brits had their spies, something his companions didn’t seem to understand.  Little did they know that the Home Office, as well as the Metropolitan Police, had agents everywhere, doing all they could to derail the movement for Irish independence. 

The Brits might decry those patriots fighting for Irish independence as murderers and traitors, but they weren’t above murder or the use of double agents who thought nothing of leading brave Fenian men and women to their deaths.  Of course, he couldn’t explain how he knew this, not without risking his own life.  So he’d choose his words carefully and keep his eyes and ears open.  That tact had kept him alive all these years.  Hopefully, it would for many more years as well.

The fact his four companions seemed unconcerned about meeting in a crowded pub to discuss their “business” didn’t sit well.  The Shamrock and Shillelagh might be considered safe by those who frequented it, but its connections to Clan na Gael were well known, not only to those who believed in Irish independence but to those who opposed it as well.  A stranger might not be made to feel welcome unless vouched for by one of the regulars, but who was to say one of the regulars wasn’t a spy — or worse, a traitor.  Even if the stranger posed not threat, there were too many people around, too many ears to hear what he and his companions had to say.  All it took was a slip of the tongue, innocent or not, by someone who happened to overhear the wrong thing to foil their plans. No, he’d feel much better if they were meeting somewhere isolated and easily secured.  Unfortunately, he’d left the place of their meeting to his companions and it was too late to change it now.

“You’re not drinking, Francis.”

“Wasn’t I too busy thinking about the pretty lass back home?”  Let them think what they would.  They were amateurs at the conspiracy game.  If he told them how worried he was, it might queer the deal.  He couldn’t risk that.  So, he’d lie.  It was only a white lie after all, one designed to protect them all, whether they realized they needed protecting or not.  “Slainte!”  He tossed back his whiskey, savoring the smoky taste before signaling for another round.  “Now, Paddy, you said you had news –“

Francis Millen paused, shaking his head, as, with a puff of smoke and squeak of metal wheels against wooden floor, a small servercart rolled up to the table.  America truly was a strange land.  He’d seen some mechanicals in London and Dublin before, but not like here. It seemed as if the mechanicals were almost everywhere, in every shape and size.  Steam powered airships floated through the skies.  Mechanicals that looked like oddly built spiders scurried up the sides of buildings, sealing cracks in windows and conducting other minor repairs. In this country, technicians and engineers were encouraged, even respected, and they took advantage of it.  Even in the pubs their strange machines seemed almost commonplace.  A quick glance at the bar showed the pub owner, a large controller in his hands, guiding the servercart amongst the tables, stopping from time to time so the patrons could grab their drinks.  Each time the ‘cart started, it gave a puff of steam from its smokestack, much like a train engine’s, adding to the smoke already hanging in the air from cigarettes, cigars and the occasional pipe.

“Well, you’ll be home to her soon enough, Francis,” Patrick Murray assured him, snagging another whiskey from the ‘cart before it moved on.  “We think we’ve a solution to your problem.”

Add to all of these Russian Nights , my historical fantasy/alternate history, Nocturnal Serenade, the sequel to Nocturnal Origins, a space opera that is really starting to bother me because it’s been neglected for so long, a mystery and the project I hinted at yesterday but can’t say too much about just yet.  So, is it any wonder I sometimes want the voices to shut up just so I can hear myself think?



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I Have Been Pirated

I knew it was bound to happen.  At least I hoped it was.  No one wants to have their work pirated.  After all, it’s hard work to write a book and get it published.  So, once it is finally available, any writer wants folks to actually buy it.  We have bills to pay, after all.  But then there’s that niggling of self-doubt at the back of your mind.  What if no one thinks your book is good enough to pirate?  Okay, maybe I’m weird there.  But I had wondered.

Now, though, seeing a site that has Origins available for a free download — and it’s not a site NRP has an agreement with — I don’t know whether to be pleased or insulted.  Pirating really doesn’t bother me that much.  Not on an intellectual level.  Maybe I’ve spent too much time hanging around Baen that I’ve been infected by their point of view.  I really do feel that pirating is nothing more than a form of promotion.  It gets our books into hands that might not otherwise have gotten it.  Some of those folks will then go out and buy the book and others by me or other NRP authors.

But this site is one that bothers me.  Most pirate sites have contact addresses you can send a take down notice to.  This one doesn’t.  No, only after a searching and finally clicking on the “sign up for a new account” did I find a “contact us” link.  And that opened up an email form to fill out.  Further investigation shows that this particular site has only been around for three months.  But…and this is the big but…if you keep looking around, it is clear the site has been around much longer.  It is simply one of those that changes its address and name from time to time.

Now, like I said, I’m not all that worried about someone pirating my book.  In fact, I am sort of pleased — again, in a perverse sort of way — that only one site has, so far, posted it for free download.  (And no, I didn’t sign up for an account nor did I try to download it.  I like my computer too much to risk the sorts of bugs these sites tend to carry).  One of the reasons I like NRP, both as my publisher and as my employer, is the fact that it doesn’t attach DRM to its titles.  The fact that NRP titles aren’t showing up en masse on pirate sites tends to prove my theory that it is the challenge of DRM that brings out a lot of these guys, not just their need/desire to give away something that should be paid for.  Add in the fact that NRP doesn’t charge more than $4.99 so far and, well, there really is no reason to pirate their titles.

Still, part of me is outraged to find my first book on a pirate site even as it is thrilled to be there.  Mind you, I’ll be keeping my eye out for other sites as well as keeping an eye on this particular one.  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing.  After all, we do have to keep these pirates in business….right?


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Wow, it doesn’t seem possible that Nocturnal Origins has been out for a month.  Thanks to everyone who has bought it, read it and spread the word.  You’ve been great.

I know there have been some of you who have been waiting for the print version of Origins and I wanted to let you know that it will be available soon.  I have seen the page proofs and the cover design.  If everything goes as expected, it should be available in a week or so.  I’ll keep you guys in the loop.

So, while you wait, do you want more snippets?

(Yes, I’m trying to find reasons not to work on the top secret project that shall not be named because Nocturnal Serenade wants to be written and the tsp is dragging its feet.)

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I want to thank everyone who’s been kind enough to buy Nocturnal Origins.  It was a fun book to write and one that is very near and dear to my heart.  I know, I know, all my books are supposed to be near and dear.  And they are.  But there are some that just seen to hang around and demand more be written.  Origins is one of these.  I have several more books in the series outlined and the immediate sequel about half-way written.  However, I have to be pragmatic.  As much as I love the book and its characters, I need to work on other projects until we see if Origins sells well enough to warrant a sequel.  So, for those of you who have asked about the next book, here’s what I need you to do — spread the word about Origins.  That’s the best form of promotion there is.

Now for the promised tease, here’s a short excerpt from the sequel, Nocturnal Serenade.  This will be the last snippet from it until we see if I’ll be finishing the book.  As much as I’d love to keep doing the snippets, it’s too much of a temptation to finish the book when I have another I have to finish to meet a deadline.

As with the previous snippet, this one is out of order.  It is also from the rough draft, so there will be changes in the final — fingers crossed — version.  Just a little background and I guess this deserves a snerk warning, even if only a little one.  For those who haven’t read the snippets, or who haven’t read Origins — and why haven’t you 😉 — Mackenzie and her mother have what is best described as a strained relationship.  Mac simply never did fit her mother’s ideal of what a daughter should be or do.  Becoming a cop certainly wasn’t on Elizabeth’s list of approved professions for her eldest daughter.  Strained relationship or not, they are going to have to talk about what’s happened to Mac and why her mother hadn’t warned her.

*   *   *

Elizabeth slammed down the phone, frustration building to the point she wanted to scream.  How dare that little chit tell her Mackenzie wasn’t in!  That she hadn’t been in all day.  She knew better, especially since Mac wasn’t home.  Since her eldest daughter took vacations about as frequently as did she – in other words, never – she had to be at work.

So, as usual, Mackenzie was avoiding her calls.

Well, that wasn’t going to work.  Not this time.  This time they had to talk, whether either of them wanted to or not.

Dear God, did they have to talk.

All it took was a glance at the photos spread across the top of her desk to remind her of just how important it was to do just that.  A dozen photos, all time stamped.  All taken over the last several months.  Some looked as if they’d been taken at Mackenzie’s house.  Others were taken in a wooded area, perhaps a park of some sort.  All showed Mac in the midst of changing, part human and part-part monster.

A sob choked Elizabeth as she tried to hold it back.  No matter how much bad blood there was between them, she’d never wanted this for Mac.  It was her fear of the family curse that had led to so much of the trouble with the girl.  Mac had resented the way Elizabeth watched her, how she demanded to know about every aspect of her daughter’s life.  To Mac, it meant her mother didn’t trust her.

It would have been so easy to prove to Mac that wasn’t it.  But it would have meant telling her why she was so worried, and that was something Elizabeth simply hadn’t been able to do.  She couldn’t even discuss it with her own mother, despite all the times her mother had tried.  So Elizabeth had watched Mac, waiting for the day when the curse would manifest itself in her.  And Mac had resented her, as any normal teen would resent it.  All of which led to a breach in their relationship neither of them had tried to heal.

Now, somehow, Elizabeth had to put all that aside as she reached out to her daughter.  She had to find a way to make Mackenzie listen.  They couldn’t risk anyone revealing what Mac had become.  But how?  How was she going to get Mac to listen to her, much less talk to her?

Since Mac wouldn’t take her calls, there were only a few alternatives available, none of which appealed to Elizabeth.  She could call her own mother and ask Ellen Santos to contact Mackenzie.  Or she could go park herself in the squad room until Mac finally realized she wasn’t going to leave.

Both options could, and most likely would, explode in her face.  Still, she had to do something.

Elizabeth sighed heavily, once more looking at the photos.  When she’d found them mixed in with the mail the night before, she’d known she couldn’t ignore them.  Someone not only knew about the family curse, but they were targeting her – and Mac.  But who?  And, more importantly, why?

Yet she hadn’t called Mac right away.  She’d done her best to find something, anything about the photos or the envelope they had come in that would help her identify who had sent them, only to find nothing.  There wasn’t even a note with these photos.  It was as if the sender wanted  her off-balance.  They were playing with her, and she knew it.  She just didn’t know what to do to stop it.

So, after a sleepless night, she’d called Mackenzie.  She’d called early enough that her daughter should have still been in bed.  But there’d been no answer.  So she’d tried calling Mac at the station, only to be told Mackenzie wasn’t there.  Just as she’d been told the other three times she’d called.

Damn her daughter’s hard head and stubborn pride.  It really was a good thing nothing had happened to either of the twins or to Ellen.

It would be so easy to fall back into the habit of relying on Ellen to act as intermediary between her and Mackenzie.  Unfortunately, as easy as that would be, she couldn’t do it.  First, because it meant she’d have to have that talk with Ellen again – the discussion not only about what the family was, but also why she should have told Mackenzie and the twins long ago. Second, and in some ways worse, Elizabeth was afraid that if she did talk to her mother, Ellen would tell her she knew about what was happening with Mackenzie, and Elizabeth wasn’t sure she wanted to know her daughter had gone to Ellen instead of her.

Not that she could blame Mac if she had.  The two of them hadn’t had a heart to heart talk since Mac’s fifteenth birthday.  To be honest, they really hadn’t talked since that day.  And that was yet another memory Elizabeth didn’t want to think about just then.

Mac simply wasn’t leaving her any choice.  They had to talk, and they had to talk now.  So, whether Mac like it or not, her mother was about to track her down and force her to listen.

Heaven help them both.

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