In Remote Paranoia the team is called in to investigate a pair of suspicious deaths of Order agents. The Order, in this world, is a group of aliens and supernatural beings that are called to serve the Fates by keeping specific points in time and people on the right track to their destiny. This particular cell of Order agents had recently retired.
Below is a sneak peek of Remote Paranoia... Check it out and get your copy on Amazon.
Frankie jabbed her heel down on Tucker’s foot causing him to stumble back in pain. She grabbed him and tossed the large man over her shoulder with ease. His body slammed against the blue mat so hard breath rushed out of his lungs. She knew she was taking her frustrations over Fang’s distance, and her sister’s betrayal, out on her friend. It was wrong. She left him on the mat and walked over to her duffel bag for some water. “Quit taking it easy on me, Tuck, or you’re going to get hurt,” she warned as she emptied her water bottle. Her mind traveled back in time as she replayed the last conversation she had with Devon about Sarah’s decision to join forces with the Amazons.
“It’s about intention? What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked, confusion and hurt swimming in his eyes.
Frankie shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know, but I get the feeling that she was trying to help us.” At least I pray she was trying to protect us, otherwise her treachery made no sense.
“She betrayed us.” Devon’s words sounded choked and riddled with emotion. It was understandable. He was in love with her, he failed to protect her, and she left him for his enemy.
“I have a feeling she did what she had to in order to survive.”
Devon looked doubtful.
“Look, I know my sister, and she’d sacrifice her soul to protect those she cares about.” Frankie insisted.
“And I know humans. They’d sacrifice anything to survive. It’s the mortality factor.” His voice sounded cold and distant.
“Sure, no one wants to die, but I’m telling you, dumbass, she’s not a traitor.” She had a feeling she was protesting too much, but she really liked Devon for Sarah.
“I hope you’re right.” The fear on his face, and rigidness in his stance told her he wasn’t sold on the idea, but the look in his eyes relayed his hope.
Hope was a nasty demon that tricked people into believing things were going to get better. In that moment, even in this moment, Frankie prayed ‘Hope’ was actually on their side.
“Karma wants to see you both in her office.” Jasmine’s heavy oriental-accented voice broke into the memory and pulled Frankie out abruptly. She didn’t wait for a response, simply turned on her heel and left before they could ask why. Jasmine was never really a very forthcoming colleague.
Frankie offered Tucker a weak smile, tossed him a towel as she dried the sweat from her own body, and exited the training room. He followed closely behind. She could feel his breath on her neck and the warmth of his body in close proximity. Her mated, enhanced senses also scented his perspiration and eagerness to begin another case. He had pent up frustrations to deal with.
Frankie had no desire to do anything until they recovered Sarah, but they’d been off duty for over a month, and it was hard to believe Karma would keep them benched any longer. Devon was already out of play thanks to the poison the Amazons injected into his body. He was still a neutered vamp, and that was a handicap they couldn’t afford out in the field. Tucker had assumed Devon’s role on the team, and Persephone, by default, also joined them.
She sped up to avoid the scent of the man beside her. Tucker hurried his pace to match hers just as Fang turned the corner and joined the two. The tension between the two men was so thick it was difficult to breath. It was like cutting through a rough chunk of steak. Even if you did break through the tension, it wasn’t like you wanted to eat the meat. The two were both shifters, and they were greedy. Fang had good reason to be possessive of Frankie, but his good reason was riddled with betrayal which created distrust.
The memory of what Fang did to her was still raw, like an open wound that didn’t seem to heal over completely, and seeing him was like rubbing salt in the lesion.
Fang didn’t hesitate. He was a bit of a brute when it came to her. He took her arm in his hand and pulled her toward him forcibly. “We need to talk.” His hands and voice were harsher than he intended as he pulled the despondent Frankie down the hall.
Once again, she was being man-handled by the overbearing were-bear. One part of her wanted his attention. She couldn’t fight off the chemical attraction, but the intelligent side of her knew better. Being drug away was the wake-up call she needed. Frankie dug her heels into the ground, but it did little good since the floors were grey concrete. “Let go of me!” She hissed, and when she started fighting back, he tossed her over his shoulder with minimal effort. When she started slamming her fists into his solid back, he spanked her. That made her pause for a moment as she processed his actions. “Did you just...spank me?”
He slipped into an abandoned office, dropped her unceremoniously on the couch, and then locked the door so they wouldn’t be disturbed. He was so angry, she could feel the boiling heat radiating off his body. His glare cut her to the bone as he tried to put his emotions in check. She didn’t like seeing him this way. Something in her subconscious warned her he was dangerous when he was upset.
The warning voice in her head did little to calm her, instead, she saw red. He kept pushing and he’d pushed too far this time. She stood up. “How dare you!” Her fist aimed for his face, but he stopped her first punch and managed to stop her second as well.
“You may be well trained, Francesca, but I trained you.” The bitterness in his voice cut her open like a gutted fish and forced her to settle down. She’d never heard him speak to her with such anger, and knowing what he was, she knew better than to poke the bear more than necessary. The saying you can catch more bears with honey rang true to her in that moment.
His voice and words softened when he saw fear in her green eyes. “Please, Frankie, I just want to talk.” He released her fisted hands.
“I don’t want to talk to you.” She crossed her arms over her chest and took a step back. They were alone and he was too close for comfort. “You really need to take a socializing class. Your actions are inexcusable.”
He offered a shy, mischievous grin. “Social etiquette has never been a strong point for me.”
“Why do you hate me so much?” He gave her a sincere, hurtful look, one that almost shook her to the core.
“I…I don’t hate you. I just hate the things you do sometimes.” The sadness in his eyes made her attitude soften. For some reason, despite her annoyance at the man, she took pity on him.
“My mother told me that hate is probably one of the worst words a person can use to describe something.”
“Your mother is right.” Frankie unfolded her arms. “Maybe I should say I dislike the things you do, but I really don’t appreciate being thrown over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and I won’t tolerate being spanked. I’m in my mid-twenties, not a child.”
“Asking for a new partner without trying to work things out with your current partner is slightly childish.”
“You heard that? It’s not polite to eavesdrop.” She balked.
He shrugged. “I’m not polite according to you.” He mumbled the last part.
He moved forward a few steps so he was invading her personal space. She took a step back, and he clamped his hand around her forearms and pulled her back toward him. “Please don’t do that.”
“What? Let me go, Fang!”
“Not until I tell you what happened to you in the hospital.”
Frankie’s eyes grew wide. “Okay, what happened?” It was the secret she’d been trying to uncover since she woke up. She didn’t know why, but she needed to know what they did to her.
“First you need to understand why. You were going to die, and I couldn’t let that happen to you. I don’t know if you realize this, but there is chemistry between us.”
Frankie laughed. “Uh, no, there isn’t.”
He tilted his head and looked deep into her eyes, like he was examining her soul. “Do I need to kiss you again to prove it?”
“Keep those lips away from me.”
He moved closer, his lips inches from hers. “Why do you deny yourself the pleasures I can show you?”
“I don’t know how else I can make it any clearer. I’m. Not. Interested.” She did it, she dared to poke the bear’s chest.
“When you stop lying to me, and perhaps to yourself, things will be a lot better between us. Even now, your heart speeds up as my lips inch closer to yours. Your green eyes grow dark with desire. You moisten your lips in anticipation and your scent is honey mixed with musk. The words you speak do not match your body’s response.”
“You’re also describing fear.” Frankie pointed out.
His face fell, and he dropped his grip on her arms. “I don’t wish to make you afraid me.” He took a step back, and Frankie felt guilt over her words. He was so literal and blunt, and he put her on the defense. It was hard to believe that her words could cut him, but they did.
“I’m sorry, Fang. I’m not afraid of you.”
His brown eyes lit up with hope. “Good, because what I need to tell you could change everything between us.”
“Okay?” Her voice was guarded.
“You were about to die.”
“I know.” The mutated strain of the Ebola virus had caused complete organ failure. The only way to survive was to eat human organs to replace those that had shut down, and she was not going to do that. The memory made her shudder.
“And it was my fault.”
“No, it wasn’t.” Not entirely his fault. The brute was constantly arguing with her about her safety in the field, and he was too preoccupied with his anger that he hadn’t put the child infected with the virus in the car before laying into her with his words. The girl was hungry and started gnawing on Frankie’s hand. She clamped down so tightly that the only way to get her to release the appendage was to kill her. Frankie closed her eyes against the memory of Fang breaking the girl’s neck. She’d never seen someone die in front of her like that, and she was still a bit traumatized by the tragedy. Fang had been suspended for a week while they investigated his actions, and he was returned to duty once they determined he was protecting his team in the line of duty. It didn’t make the picture of the girl’s death any easier.
“We all knew you weren’t ready for field work, but we needed you because of--
Just being near him made her emotions go haywire. She needed to get away, and didn’t want to hear it anymore. “Look, Fang, I get it. You all injected me with some sort of paranormal healing serum. What I really want to know is if it’s going to fade.”
“The strength?” Fang tried to catch up to her questioning. Changing gears mid-conversation wasn’t always easy.
Frankie nodded. “And the enhanced senses.”
“No, you’ll always have those things no matter what you do.”
Frankie took a deep breath. “I’ve thought a lot about this, and assuming that is what you all did to me, I’m… okay with it.”
She didn’t know it then, but there was far more to it. “Well, kind of, as long as I know what is happening to me and understand all the things connected to it. I mean, it makes me a stronger agent. I just hate being kept in the dark with people I’m supposed to trust keeping secrets from me. Are there any nasty side effects?”
Oh, boy, there were nasty side effects. She didn’t learn the whole truth from him. It was a banshee that revealed the curse he put on her. The bear didn’t even have the guts to tell her they were mated. She supposed that was what hurt the most about the whole situation. That, and the tiny fact that when she was near him they were hot for each other beyond belief. There was a thin line between love and hate, especially where mates were concerned.
Mentally, she knew what he did saved her life. He risked his own life to keep her breathing, and gave up any chance of ever finding a mate by bonding with her to save her from dying. Intellectually, she should try and make things work with him, but all the lies he told after the fact created muddy water under that bridge. She couldn’t trust her body near him. The only part of her that she did trust around him was her mind and the ability to make decisions for herself. Besides, who could make a lifelong commitment to a man they barely knew? A Neanderthal brute that had difficulty even having a simple conversation.
It made her guilty whenever she allowed those thoughts to mull around in her mind. He was raised more bear than human. Holding his childhood against him was immature, but it was yet another point against the man. The were-bear was not what she envisioned for her mate.
“Tucker, can we have a minute?” Fang stepped in front of Frankie halting her entrance Karma’s office.
Tucker’s warm, brown eyes gravitated to Frankie, and she nodded ‘okay’ before he entered the office leaving them alone in the hallway.
Fang took a step forward and Frankie stepped back. “This insistence on keeping us apart is killing me, Frankie.” His blue eyes pleaded with her for a little understanding.
She stepped back again, and felt the cool wall seep into her spine. “I need time, Fang. If there is any chance for us in the future, you need to give me space.”
He did the exact opposite with another step putting him closer to her than before. “I get what you’re saying, I do, but we’re partners, and we were becoming friends. Can’t we try and kindle that friendship?”
“We are friends,” she responded without thinking. Her body’s chemical reaction to the man was kicking in. Her desire to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss his lips was overwhelming her thought process. “But, I can’t give you more until I find my sister. Sarah has to be my priority right now.”
“You’ve got to know she’s mine, too. What’s important to you is important to me.”
Her eyes snapped fire. “And that’s why you altered my chemical makeup without consulting me first.”
He looked hopeless. “Are you never going to forgive me for saving your life?”
“Probably not.” And sadly, she knew it was probably the truth.
He slammed his fist into the wall beside her head. She didn’t flinch. She was used to his temper where she was involved. “Damn it, Francesca! I beg you to give us a chance.”
“Are you two coming?” Jasmine opened the door and waited for them to enter, impatience written all over her face.
Saved by the dragon. Frankie ducked under Fang’s arms and entered the office. Fang was slow to follow, but he did. Jasmine, Tucker, Persephone DeLuca, Devon, Karma, and two strange women were already seated, waiting. No one looked pleased with the delay.
“Sorry.” Frankie apologized as she took a seat next to Devon. Fang grumbled what passed for an apology from the man.
“Thank you for joining us. I need your help on a new case.” Karma began. Our boss had two personas; the badass goddess that doled out punishment to equal the scales of karma, and the hipster chick that looked like a 60s throw-back when she was evaluating karmatic justice.
Lately her attire erred on the side of the badass biker chick, and today was not different. Her skin-tight leather body suit hugged her curves and would have made a supermodel jealous. Her long, blonde curls were tied back in a braid that fell to the small of her back, and her ‘one green and one blue’ eyes were lined in smoky kohl. The girl was out for justice, and it was bad, bad, bad.
“We already have a case,” Frankie was careful to point out. “I thought you told us finding Sarah was our priority?”
“It is,” Karma began, “but since we have made no traction on the search in the last few weeks I need to allocate some resources to this new case. You, Fang, and Devon will join Tucker, DeLuca, and Jasmine on this one case.”
Devon was quick to point out, “I’m still unable to cause pain to another living being--”
“Which is why you’re the team leader.”
Devon and the other horsemen of the apocalypse, who happened to be vampires, were injected with a neutering serum by the very Amazons that brainwashed Sarah in their last case. Since the serum had proven to be irreversible he’d been placed on the bench indefinitely. For Karma to put him in the field said a lot about the severity of the case. It was the only reason Frankie decided to keep her mouth shut.
Tucker asked the question that was on everyone’s mind. “What is the case?”
Karma passed out file folders to everyone in the room. “We have a string of accidental deaths involving high powered supernatural officials.”
Devon looked quizzically at Karma. “Accidental deaths don’t generally fall under the purview of the PBI.”
“No, they don’t. But these are peculiar and demand a thorough investigation.”
Karma flipped on the big screen with her remote. Two faces appeared on the television. She shot the red laser to the first man. Dark hair, dark skin, hazel eyes, goatee, and dangerous stare. “Jerrell Jackson, an alpha wolf from Washington State. Parts of his body were discovered in the wood chipper on the compound.”
Fang ran a hand through his blond hair. “Are we sure this wasn’t murder?”
“It was labeled as an accidental death. He was drinking the night before, somehow fell asleep in the chipper, and when the crew came in the next morning and started the machine his body was shredded.”
“By the gods!” Fang rarely spoke in debriefs, but this obviously had an impact on him. “Horrible way to lose an alpha.”
“And so the local authorities concluded that falling into a wood chipper was an accidental death?” Devon shook his head.
“It happens,” Karma’s eyes flew to the redheaded stranger in the room, “unfortunately.” She took a deep breath and continued. “According to the report, Jerrell was drinking, he made the chipper his bed, and passed out, and when the workers came in the next morning and turned on the machine,” she swallowed hard, “…the rest is detailed in the report.” Even Karma looked sick as she gave what little details she could.
“Come on!” Frankie blurted out. “I mean, unbelievable.” She followed her statement of disbelief with one of astonishment when all eyes turned toward her.
“Frankie’s right. Seems a little impossible.” Devon backed his partner up.
Karma shrugged. “Freak accidents happen all the time, I myself have been responsible for a few of them when karmatic justice is delivered. Not chipper accidents, mind you.” She shuddered. “It’s a little too gruesome for my taste, but last year alone there were fourteen deaths by wood chippers across the country.”
“So death by freak accident.” DeLuca rolled her eyes. “Were there any witnesses?”
“Not any according to the report. A good friend of the deceased had been there, but when he left Jerrell was alive, and when he returned in the morning he was the one to start the machine. What makes this peculiar is the gruesomeness of the death ensured that the alpha wouldn’t survive.” Karma clicked the remote again and the next face appeared on the screen. “We know how to kill paranormal creatures, but the humans don’t. That leads me to believe these killings, if they turn out to be murders, are by a supernatural, or at the very least, preternatural with a lot of information.”
The agents cast glances at each other and the screen, but none spoke so Karma continued. “Frankie and Fang will go to Washington to investigate a little further.”
“Persephone and Tucker, I want you two to take a second look at the suspicious death of Libby Good. She is a witch that died by drowning in her bathtub.”
“Were there any defensive marks?” Persephone DeLuca raised a dark eyebrow.
“No, and there were no bruises on the body to indicate she was held down either.” Karma answered the next obvious question.
The group started flipping through the files again.
“What connects these two together?”
“They are part of the Order.” Jasmine supplied the answer. She looked at the two strangers in the room. “So are the two of you.”
“Very good, Jasmine.” Karma smiled warmly.
“That is why we believe one of us are next.” The small woman with shiny, red hair and twinkling blue eyes joined the conversation. Her voice held a soft Irish lilt.
The second woman with long black hair and olive skin nodded. “Usually, we wouldn’t be concerned with something like this. We’re very capable in handling our own affairs. The problem is this threat is taking down our best operatives.”
All eyes turned to the two women. The ginger woman offered a grin that didn’t touch her eyes. “We come to you asking for sanctuary. Our team was disbanded a month ago. Once we’ve been retired, we’re on our own. My name is Mackenna, but my friends call me Red. The dead on the screen were my friends, and at one time, teammates.”
“And I’m Olivia,” the dark-haired woman who carried a holstered sword between her shoulder blades added. These two women looked far more dangerous than they had first appeared. Frankie didn’t know what the Order was, but she had a feeling it wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
“Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the Order?” Frankie asked after a long silence stretched between them like an abandoned highway. Both gave her the creeps.
“The Order works for the Fates, my mother and aunts. Their job is to simply keep destiny on track for major players.” Karma began.
“Game changers. If someone whose path impacts large numbers of people, and the fate of nations is not on track, it is our job to help them back on the rails, so to speak.” Red offered.
“So you manipulate fate.” Frankie now understood why they were here. It was an odd form of nepotism.
“No one manipulates fate. It has already been decided. We just help it along.” Olivia’s tone was stern leaving no room for argument.
“And you think someone is trying to kill you all?” Devon asked.
“We’re a six person team, and two of us are dead within a month of leaving the Order. Supernaturals are hard to kill.” Red added, “Order members are far more difficult to terminate.”
“Libby was excited to go home and learn her heritage, not to mention she was a water witch. There is no way she could drown. Water was her friend.” Olivia’s tone sounded odd.
“Jerrell was in love, and he was the new alpha for Washington State. He had everything to fight for.” Red added.
“In love? With who?” DeLuca asked.
“Me.” Red answered. “He was happy.”
“Sometimes people are good at hiding how…” Tucker used a soothing voice, like a comforting hand on the shoulder as he began to question the witness.
Red rushed up on him, inches from his face, “I’m not a naïve civilian. I’ve lived centuries as a Nephilim. I know how people can hide feelings and thoughts. Don’t patronize me, boy.”
“Down, Red.” Karma commanded. “My agents are only trying to help. If you prefer, we can let you handle your own investigation.”
Red backed up, but the glare from her stone-cold eyes caused Frankie to shiver. She didn’t like this angel half breed, and would be happy when the case was over.
“I’d like Devon to run point, and Jasmine and Dev can stay here guarding Red and Olivia while you investigate the crime scenes. Then return here, and we’ll coordinate next steps.” Karma snapped the screen off and sat down at her desk, dismissing them.
Get it on Amazon individually at regular price here.
It is also available in the Wicked After Dark Box set for a special price of $0.99 for a very limited time.