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Give Books for Christmas!

Books make amazing gifts. They’re the kind of thing that keeps on giving since your loved one can return to them again and again. E-books make a marvelous last minute present. Below, I’ve gathered the websites of several of my author friends for you to visit and (I hope) purchase from. Other author friends, please put your links below in the comments.

My book, “Indian Summer”, is an historical romance set in St Augustine, Florida in 1739. It’s available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com and http://www.amazon.com The novel is available in E-book and Kindle form as well as printed form. My new sci-fi novel, “The Lone Wolf”, is coming soon form Second Wind. ~ Dellani

For William Beck’s great spy thrillers:
http://www.booksbybeck.com/

For the beautiful & moving Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey by Jon Magee
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paradise-Island-Heavenly-Journey/133686193356313
And Jon’s other amazing book, From Barren Rocks to Living Stones
http://www.facebook.com/pages/From-Barren-Rocks-to-Living-Stones/283465875540

For books by Bethany Warner
bkwriter.blogspot.com

For the work of Olwyn Conrau
http://www.olwynconrau.com/books.html

Visit Karen Vaughn here
http://www.karenvaughan.info/ Karen Vaughn
Find her book, Dead Comic Standing at http://www.amazon.com

For the books & artwork of Mickey Hoffman
http://www.mickeyhoffman.com/

For the funny and poignant, My Bad Tequila by Rico Austin
http://www.amazon.com/My-Bad-Tequila-Rico-Austin/dp/0981978916/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291941988&sr=1-1

For your copy of Activate Intuition by Jim Wawro
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.activateintuition.com%2F&h=f0ed31wfI6BqSkTJ8l_Yv-1xBaQ

To find the work of Mark David Gerson
http://www.amazon.com/Mark-David Gerson/e/B002CQXFPM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

“From a Child’s Perception” is available at www.authorsden.com/annalfowler Anna Fowler

Susie Schecter http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lifetimes+ago&x=14&y=1
Susie’s website is http://www/. lifetimesago.com

Quote of the Week – Among the Shine Clan – Part 1

“Among the Shine Clan” is a short story I wrote about a year ago.  It is set in the not too distant future, where cybernetic body parts have become commonplace.  The world has changed a lot in the last decade, from Global Warming, tidal waves, and a devastating war with the Chinese.  People have become more secretive and clannish, protecting themselves from marauders, but also from their own government.  Fiddlestix is in the Army of North America (an alliance formed to better combat the Chinese.)  This is her tale, so I’ll let her tell it.  ~ Dellani  (This story is not appropriate for children under 14.)

It wasn’t going to be a very good day, Fiddlestix could tell already. Not even 0800 and already she’d had five serious confrontations, three semi-serious and two minimal ones. She hated days that started by putting her people on report, but the mission had everyone on edge, including her.

Admittedly, some of the confrontations had been her fault. She had just finished a briefing with General McLain and wasn’t in much of a mood to be messed with. Nine heavily cybered soldiers and their semi-psychotic handler had gone AWOL nearly three days ago. Their last known position was deep in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee in an area known to be owned and protected by an organization who called themselves the Shine Clan.

The Shine Clan held to the principle that “The South Shall Rise Again”. They hated to admit that the War Between the States was over, and that their side lost. They were highly intolerant of outside control or contact, deciding long ago that they had no need for a corrupt government.

It was an attitude that Fiddlestix could understand, finding herself less than impressed with the United States leaders in the year of our Lord 2047. As a member of an elite attack force in the Army of North America, she wasn’t in a position to voice her discontent, but that didn’t stop her thinking that not only were the leaders corrupt, they were downright stupid.

This opinion extended to General McLain. No, she corrected herself, it started with McLain and ended with the President. After a brief confab, the general and his buddy, President Bob Harmon, had decided that Fiddlestix and her squad were going to infiltrate the Shine Clan territory, track down the cyber unit and bring them back alive, but incapacitated. She had codes to shut them down, but she had to find them first. The failsafe had to be initiated with face to face contact.

“Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance,” she muttered as she checked her equipment the last time.

“Hey, Gunny,” her corporal yelled.

“Yeah, Kaz. What?”

Corporal Walter Kazinski dog trotted over to her side.  “We’re set, Gunny. Everybody’s loaded up and ready to go.”

“Great. Tell Lieutenant Frieze.”

“He ain’t goin’.”

“What?” She blinked hard, trying to focus on his face as she processed what he’d said. “Frieze isn’t going? When did this happen?”

“About twenty minutes after you went to talk to McLain. He pulled a muscle or something on the wall. He says he can’t possibly function or some such bullshit. He ain’t goin’.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” she growled. “Give me ten minutes with him. He’s going or I’ll blow his balls off.” She stormed out of the barracks, yelling over her shoulder. “Stow my gear!”

“Yes, Gunny!” He grabbed her kit and ran back to the waiting airship.

Lieutenant Myron Frieze wasn’t career Army. He was some geek who’d signed on for a minimum stint because he’d been in college on the Army ROTC program and needed to pay the government back for his education. He was a bigger idiot than McLain and even more cowardly.

“Pulled a muscle my Aunt Fanny! Piece of chicken shit doesn’t want to go. I’ll kill him. Then they can throw me in the brig and I won’t have to go either!”

The mission wasn’t sitting well with her. She was to a point that she didn’t want to have anything to do with the Shine Clan, the cyber unit, the Army, or more particularly, General McLain.

Frieze wasn’t in his quarters. She found him in the infirmary so doped on pain killers that he wasn’t capable of conscious thought.

“Is he really injured?” She demanded of the doctor who was a friend of hers.

In point of fact, she and Brant Henry were occasional lovers. He’d tell her anything with the right persuasion. She used that now, playing up to him and stroking his thigh under the edge of the table where no one else could see. Brant fidgeted under her erotic touch. There was power in her fingers and he didn’t even want to think what she was capable of if he disappointed her.

“He came in complaining of a pulled muscle. Honest, Stix, I couldn’t find evidence of it, no matter what tests I ran. He didn’t have a bump, bruise, strain or bulge,” his voice caught and he gasped as her hand moved up his thigh. “Nothing, babe, I swear. He’s as healthy as you or me.”

“But yet he’s doped to the gillies, why’s that?”

“He insisted. Low pain tolerance, he claims.”

“Is that in addition to his yellow streak and cold feet?”

Brant chuckled seductively. He held the same opinion of Frieze and McLain that she did. His hand fell on hers gently, holding it at the top of his thigh, moving her fingers between his legs a bit.

“Hey, why don’t you come by later? I get off shift at 1900.”

“I can’t. We’re ready to bug out. I have to go.”

“Will you come by if you get back?” He turned worried grey eyes to hers. “I don’t have a good feeling about this, Hannah.”  He only used her given name when he was concerned.

When I get back, I’ll come see you.”

“Be safe, Hannah. I know you’re not religious, but I’ll be praying for you.”

Heedless of what others might think of him associating with a non-commissioned officer, he leaned over and kissed her lingeringly. “Be careful. Listen to that little, paranoid voice of yours and do exactly what it says. I’ve never known your hunches to be wrong, Hannah.”

“I’ll be careful, Brant. I promise.”

She left the infirmary, feeling even less confident than before. Muttering and mumbling to herself, she nearly walked into Captain Ingrid Bark. The captain stopped her with one arm, nearly clotheslining her.

“Whoa,” she said sharply, grabbing Fiddlestix by the shoulder. “What’s up? I heard your squad is going into combat without Frieze?”

“He claims he’s injured, ma’am.”

“Does he really?” She didn’t like Frieze either.

“Let’s just say that I’m skeptical, shall we?” Never one to gossip, she wasn’t going to start now.

“Do you need me to go?”

“No, Captain. I can handle it. Do me a favor though?”

“Anything, name it.”

“Watch my back. Have me a way out. I don’t like this one, Ingrid. This is not wise, entering Shine Clan territory without asking. It could be construed as an act of war, and that’s a giant we don’t want to wake. We have no idea what their actual manpower is.”

“McLain can’t contact them?”

Fiddlestix shrugged. “Can’t or won’t. Take your pick. I need to go. Thanks for your help.”

“Come back safe, Hannah. I’ll get the ball rolling for you before you lift off.”

Fiddlestix tried to smile, but it was nearly impossible. She ran to the airship just as Kaz was jumping out to come after her.

“What about Frieze?”

“He’s not coming.”

“I got that. Is he really hurt?”

She gave him a level look. Kaz turned away, bellowing at the members of the elite force.

“Heads up! Gunny’s in charge! Sit down, shut up, mind your manners!”

The airships took off, carrying them in stages to the drop point. Twenty miles from the target, they were unceremoniously jerked out the back in a low altitude drop that left Fiddlestix slightly bruised and breathless. After her people regrouped, she did a headcount, ordering everyone to take a few minutes to eat. She would have preferred to take a smaller group, no more than twenty well trained men and women, into the mountains.

Upwards of forty were too many to keep track of. They were nervous and that made them unpredictable. Going after the cyber unit was scary enough, but the idea of going into hostile territory to get them made it worse.

“I have the feeling I’ve got cross hairs trained on me,” she mused, not voicing her disquiet to her people.

Her attitude was cocky and confident. She was damned if her troops were going to see her scared. Her gut might be tied in knots, but they wouldn’t know it. She’d learned a long time ago that the leader’s worry could transmit itself to the troops.

Less than five miles in, strange things started to happen. Kaz contacted her over her headset. He wasn’t very clear and his signal was breaking up.

“Uh, Gunny?”

“Talk to me, Kaz.”

“The point team just disappeared.”

“Do you mean you lost sight of them?”

“No, Gunny. They fuckin’ disappeared. Right off my screen.

I sent Diaz and Harmony out to look for them, nothing. No sign.”

“On my way.”

(For part 2, please visit http://writersanctuary.blogspot.com/ )

Oscar Friedman’s Freakish Occurence – part 5

(I just realized this never got posted here. OOPS!)  Things aren’t going well for poor Oscar.  His car is giving him fits and the GPS – well…. it’s not behaving the way it should.

“This isn’t the way Patrick said to go,” he mumbled. “This can’t be right.”

“Of course it’s right,” the GPS said in the same neutral voice. “Left turn in 1.6 miles.”

“Wait a second.” Oscar slammed on the brakes, skidding to a halt on the shoulder of the road. “Did you talk to me?”

“Left turn in 1.6 miles.” There was a pause. “You can’t make the turn unless you get back on the road, moron.”

“You did talk! What the hell!” He tried turning the GPS off but it wouldn’t comply.

Pounding the dashboard, cursing like crazy, he succeeded to make his fist hurt. The GPS stayed on. The car started moving, despite Oscar’s attempts to turn it off. Yelling and cursing, Oscar eased back onto the road, hanging on for dear life as the car accelerated rapidly, passing the rest of the traffic.

“Left turn coming up!” The GPS shouted. “Slow down, idiot!”

Oscar hit the brakes, slewing around the corner like a madman. The Prius swung wildly across the road, finally coming to a shuddering stop. Before he could get his shaken nerves under control, the car started moving again.

“Calculating route.”

“I made the turn. What the hell?”

The car started up again, driving quickly down the narrow, hilly road. Terrified, Oscar clung to the wheel, hardly steering as the little hybrid careened along the road. It came to a stop at an intersection.

“You have arrived.”

“I’m in the middle of nowhere!” He yelled, beating the steering wheel? “Where am I?”

“Oh, so you admit you need me now?” The GPS sounded smug.

“Get me out of here.”

“Say the magic word.”

“Get me out of here, you useless piece of crap!”

“That’s not the magic word.” The voice was decidedly hostile.

The car started again, hurtling along the road at ninety, running stop signs, narrowly missing other vehicles. It came to another stop at the crest of a desolate hill. They were well out of town by this time. Oscar’s phone was completely dead. Not even turning it off did any good. He got out of the car, slamming the door, keys in his pocket. As he walked down the hill, he heard the distinctive sound of the motor starting. The crunch of grit and gravel filled his ears as the car backed up, passing him, cutting off his retreat.

“Get in the car,” the GPS voice said.

“I don’t know who you are and why you’re possessing this car,” Oscar backed away from it. “But I’ll find out and I’ll get rid of you.”

“Get in the car, Oscar. Jasmine would want you to get in the car.” The voice took on the same quality and cadence as Jasmine’s voice. “Please get in the car, Oscar. I’ll be good. I promise.”

“You’re insane. Or I’m insane. I don’t know which. But this isn’t happening!”

“Get in the car or I’ll run you over where you stand!” The engine revved.

Rather than arguing further, Oscar got back in the car. He couldn’t escape the possessed vehicle on foot. It would run him down and no one would ever know or believe that it had murdered him. Not that anyone would believe him anyway.

“I’m totally lost,” Oscar mumbled. “I’ve no clue where I am. Take me back to town.”

“What’s the magic word?”

“Please,” he grumbled.

“Please what?”

“Please take me back to town.”

“Calculating route.” The voice said in a chipper town.

The car swung around, heading back the way he’d come. It allowed him to steer, but stalled if he tried to go off the route it had for him. He arrived at his next venue nearly two hours late. Patrick was angry, mostly because he was concerned.

“Sorry. The car isn’t behaving,” Oscar mumbled. “I’ll get a new one tomorrow if I have to buy the damn thing.”

“Do that. Tomorrow is our biggest venue. I really need you there, Oscar. Those people will eat that book up like candy.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know. Thanks, Patrick. Sorry to be such a pain.”

“Head back to your hotel. Get a good meal and some sleep. Tomorrow will be better.”

“Yeah. I’ll do that. Meanwhile, I’m taking this car back to the lot.”

“Good idea.”

Somehow, once he was out of the car, his phone worked perfectly. Oscar called Jasmine as he walked out to his car. Instead of going directly to the lot, he walked around the side of the building, away from where he’d parked. The white Prius rolled to a stop next to him. Oscar walked back into the store as he waited for Jasmine to answer.

“Hello?” Her voice sounded happy and breathless.

“Hi, Jasmine. Oscar Friedman.”

“Hi, Oscar! I was just thinking about you. How’s the car doing?”

“It’s been a weird day. Can I take you to dinner? I’d really like to see you.”

“Sure. How about I meet you at the hotel restaurant? That will give you a chance to get back there and freshen up.”

“That sounds good. Mind eating early? I’m beat.”

“How about six thirty? That gives me time to go home and change.”

“Excellent. See you then.”

He walked outside to find the car where he’d parked it. It started up without problem, though the GPS gave him instructions on how to get back to his hotel without him keying in the address. To test it, he made a wrong turn on purpose, a block or so from the hotel.

“Calculating route,” the voice sounded overly loud. “What are you doing, Oscar? Did you think I wouldn’t be paying attention?”

“Nothing. I looked at the map wrong.” He got back on the right road, nervous sweat coating his face.

He arrived at the hotel and parked as close to the doors as he could. He wanted it to be easier for the clerk if the alarm went off again. On a whim, not really expecting it to work, he set the alarm before going inside. He left the keys at the desk with the same clerk who had been there the day before. Thanking her politely, he went to his room.

“Ring Up the Curtain” a work in progress by Dellani Oakes

Posting a quote from a work in progress called “Ring Up the Curtain” It struck me as rather funny and quirky, so I decided to share it. This is part of a longer conversation between Shaine Gregory and 3 of her guy friends – Colt – a man she recently met, Brent – her boyfriend & Romy – his cousin.

“Brent, dude, you are one lucky man.” Colt grinned at him. “You’ve got a woman who doesn’t mind telling you what turns her on.”

“Naked men,” Brent chuckled.

“Nearly naked, thanks. I like a little left to the imagination. I mean, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” Shaine corrected.

Three men groaned loudly.

“That hurts,” Brent said. “We like to think we’re all unique.”

“Baby, that’s like asking me which skateboard I want to ride, the long or the short one. They all have wheels, they all have sandpaper on top and they get me where I want to go. The decoration is different, the wheels faster or slower, but they’re all skateboards.”

“You’re comparing a man’s package to a skateboard?” Colt looked confused and somewhat disheartened. “That’s not even right.”

“You cut me to the quick, love,” Romy said. “We men are rather attached to our personal units, you understand. Are you saying size isn’t a factor?”

They leaned toward her, curious. Shaine giggled, tossing her head.

“It matters some. Too big is almost as bad as too small. Each woman has her own idea of just right, kind of like Goldilocks.”

“Well, the three bears here wanna know, what’s just right?” Colt smirked.

“You really want to know?”

They were hanging on her every word. Nodding, they scooted closer as she leaned over the table.

“Ask Brent, cause it’s in his pants.” She smiled sweetly, excusing herself from the table.

Their laughter followed her to the ladies’ room, fading slightly as the door closed.

When Something You Write Makes You Cry

sea of destiny coverI just got done writing one of the saddest books I’ve ever written. Unusual for me, because most of my work is pretty upbeat. It might be intense or action packed, even hot and steamy, but not sad. I don’t mean depressing, because the story is one of hope and it has a happy ending. However, I had a lot of moments when I found myself in tears.

Crazy. I’m the one writing it, and it’s making me cry. Does that make sense? When we write something that moves us to tears, is that a fair judge of how our readers will be affected? Does it make us even crazier than we thought we were? Or is it something else?

I like to hope that what I’m writing creates an emotional response in my readers. I want my words to excite them, get their imaginations moving and energize their senses. A story is more than just words on a page. They become meaningless and dull if they don’t go somewhere. What if that somewhere is dark, murky, frightening? Or conversely, light, humorous, whimsical? Sometimes that place is sadness, remorse, resignation.

The story I wrote hasn’t really got a title yet, so let me give a brief synopsis. Kyle, a 34 year old single father, is still grieving after the death of his wife, Margo. She died from cancer five months prior to the beginning of the book. Haunted by his inability to fix the situation and make her well, he buries himself in work and the responsibilities of raising three children alone. Seeing him heading toward an early grave himself, his boss (who is also a good friend) forces him to take a month off to get himself together.

At his boss’ insistence, Kyle books a cruise and takes his children and housekeeper/ friend, Carmelita, with him. The first night at dinner, he meets Emily. Beautiful and vivacious despite the fact that she’s recently finished chemo therapy, Emily captures his heart. His children love her, Carmelita likes her, everything is perfect – until he discovers that Emily, too, is dying. By the time he finds out, he’s already falling in love.

Kyle’s past comes back to haunt him and he makes a disastrous mistake, thus jeopardizing his relationship with Emily. Tortured by guilt and self-doubt, he falls into a very dark, emotional place. It is a story of regret, rebirth, renewed faith, resignation and remembrance. It also made me cry like crazy.

I felt compelled to update this many moons later. This story, which at the time didn’t have a title, is now called Sea of Destiny and I am currently sharing it on Cereal Authors blog. You can find the posts here.

Oscar Friedman’s Freakish Occurence – part 4

Shaking his head, Oscar walked into the store, looking for his publisher and the other authors. He found them gathered in a comfortable area near the back of the store. There were several upholstered chairs and a coordinating loveseat arranged in a cozy manner. Most of the authors were sitting down sipping different teas. The store sold every imaginable tea as well as books. Oscar fell in love with the environment as soon as he walked in.

Patrick, his publisher, came forward with his hand extended. “Great you could make it, Oscar! Let me introduce the gang.” He went around the group introducing the others proudly, a wide grin on his face. “So that’s the rest of our little family,” he chuckled.

The store opened a few minutes later and customers dribbled in at first, then more as the morning wore on. Several of them stayed as the authors read excerpts from their books. All of them were well received. Oscar sold six books. Feeling elated, he talked several minutes to a pair of elderly ladies who were thinking of buying the books for their reading group.

A piercing, annoying whine filled the air. A customer who was just walking through the door, glanced at the parking lot over his shoulder. “Someone’s car alarm,” he pointed. “That white Prius.”

Cursing rather more loudly than he intended, Oscar ran outside. The remote refused to work from the doorway. He had to walk over to the car and use it less than four feet away. Muttering darkly, he walked back inside to apologize, but the women had chosen another book instead. Giving him dubious glares, they left quickly.

“Oscar, what’s wrong with you?” Patrick asked him, eyes concerned.

“That car will be the death of me!”

He told the whole sordid tale. By the end of it, he had quite an audience of customers and authors alike. Everyone listened with rapt attention.

“I feel like the dumb thing is out to get me,” he finished lamely.

Patrick, who was a former counselor, put his arm around Oscar’s shoulders. “You know that’s delusional, right? This isn’t one of your spine tinglers, Oscar. This is real life. In real life, cars don’t have a personality and the GPS doesn’t reprimand you for going the wrong way.”

“I know that, Patrick. I can’t help how it feels, can I?”

“I guess not. Have Jim brew you a cup of that relaxation tea. Have a seat and drink it. It will help you calm down. I’ll lead you to the next venue.”

“Thanks, Patrick. I’ll do that.”

He sipped the relaxing brew, letting his eyes drift shut. He didn’t realize, until Patrick woke him, that he’d fallen asleep. It was time to leave for the next venue. Feeling somewhat better after his nap, he got in the car. He turned it on, not setting the GPS. Patrick pulled up and he followed him out of the parking lot.

“Calculating route,” the GPS said in a chilly voice.

“I didn’t set you. You’re not supposed to be working.”

Stopped at a light, he fiddled with the GPS, but the light changed before he made any progress. Trying to keep his eyes on Patrick in the heavy traffic, he ignored the GPS until the next light. Satisfied that it was off, he waited for the light to change. The car stalled. Cursing, he fought to restart it, but it was being stubborn. Honking accompanied his attempts and Patrick pulled away, oblivious to the fact that Oscar wasn’t following him.

The car started up on its own, hurling him into oncoming traffic as the light changed at the intersection. Spinning the wheel, he got back in his lane, accompanied by the shouts, honks and finger gestures from other drivers.

“Sorry!” He called to no one in particular. “I’m from out of town!”  He caught up with Patrick at the next light. His phone rang.

“Thought I’d lost you, buddy.”

“Car’s being a pain in the butt, Pat.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. Keep going.”

“Okay. Call if you need me.”

“Yeah.” He hung up, tossing the phone on the passenger’s seat.

“Calculating route.”

“You aren’t even supposed to be on, you stupid, sorry, crappy, piece of …. Shit!” The car stopped dead in the middle of the intersection. “Oh, no! What’s going on?”

Nothing he did this time would restart the car. He sat there, holding up traffic from all roads, desperately trying to restart the car. A police officer pulled up a few minutes later. Oscar’s automatic window refused to go down. He mimed that he needed to open the door. The police officer stepped warily away from the car.

“I’m sorry,” Oscar began. In a shaking voice he explained his problem.

“Won’t start, huh?” The officer looked angry, turning red in the face as the car purred to life.

“I swear! It was totally dead. It got hit by lighting last night. It’s been acting up every since.”

“Just get out of my intersection,” the cop growled. “Move it! Now!”

“Yes, sir. I’m moving!” Hopping back in, he fastened his belt and took off. “Dammit, now I’ve lost Patrick.” He tried to call, but the phone, which had been fully charged that morning, was totally dead.

Desperate, he set the GPS. “Calculating route,” the cheery voice greeted him. “Right turn in .5 miles.”

“Well, at least it’s working at the moment – I hope.” He followed the GPS which seemed to be on the right track. Less than three miles from his destination, it directed him off the main road onto a side road.

The Lone Wolf – excerpt

The Lone Wolf, first in my sci-fi series, is coming out this year from Second Wind Publishing.  He’s the hero’s first entrance to give you a little taste of what the book is like.

Slowly and with a casual air, a man entered the airlock. Nearly as tall as Marc, he was leaner of build. His curly, dark brown hair fell to his shoulders. He stood still while Rubee scanned his identification tag before releasing the force shield in front of him.

He wore a black eyepatch of his left eye and a jagged scar ran from his left temple to the corner of his lips. It was an old scar, worn and somewhat sunken. A slight stubble of beard shaded the lower half of his face, all but the scar line, which was a pale crescent in the dark.

His uncovered eye glittered black and dangerous in his ruggedly handsome face. Holding his arms from his sides, he waited as Rubee scanned him for weapons. Finding none, she gave clearance for him to pass.

He stepped forward, lighting a dark, thin object. The pungent odor of a cheroot filled the confined space. Squinting past the smoke, he gazed into Marc’s eyes. Marc’s weapon remained pointed at the other man’s head, his calm expression strangely predatory.

VanLipsig threw back his head, laughing caustically. The laugh became a long, high pitched, chilling howl. Matilda felt a shiver run through her to the very bone. She did her best not to show it, but a subtle shift of her bearing betrayed her. His gaze penetrated her soul, laying it bare, finding it wanting.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to the lady, Marc?”

“No.”

Marc hid his anger, but Matilda knew he was furious. His attitude toward VanLipsig puzzled her. They seemed to have known one another for years, parting on less than amicable terms. Though VanLipsig seemed to harbor no ill will, Marc obviously did.

“May I present myself, ma’am? I am Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, also known as the Lone Wolf. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?” He attempted to look humble. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” His glance flicked to her name tag and insignia, dark eye lingering hungrily on her chest. “Commander Dulac.” His mouth formed the words, enjoying the feel of the consonants on his tongue.

He waited patiently for a response. Getting none, his eye locked with hers, curious, intrigued. “Do you speak?”

Matilda studied him quizzically, raising an eyebrow. “There seemed little to say.”

Wil chuckled deep in his throat. It was the most seductively menacing sound she had ever heard.