Canadian born and bred, and a lifelong dreamer, I began writing at an early age and can’t recall a time when I wasn’t creating in some artistic form. My life has had several on-going love affairs that shape much of what I write. In the past half dozen years, I’ve released books in all lengths and genres, and it’s something I hope to continue to do for many more years. A visit to my websites will show the diversity of what is currently available, as well as other surprises and extras!
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AS FATE DECREES
Genre: Adventure/Historical Fantasy / Greek Mythology
Aurora Award Finalist
The gods of ancient Greece must find a mortal champion to defend their fate.
“Go and seek the one I have told you about, she is frail and in need of help. Look not of upper blood, for I have seen her down in the dirt. She is held against her will. Find her and you shall find your savior.” — The Oracle of Delphi
In ancient Greece the young maiden, Amarantha, is captured and sold in the slave market of Athens.
"What fates await?" she wonders. "And what divine design will the Olympian gods have for me?"
As unexpectedly as she had found herself placed in chains, Amarantha finds herself purchased by a mysterious master who refuses to reveal his true identity.
But he is no ordinary man, nor she an ordinary slave.
Under her master's tutelage, Amarantha is trained as a fighter and challenged to prove herself in battle after battle until her skills are perfected and she is granted the right to know his true identity.
He is Ares, god of war and the son of Zeus. And she is to become Champion to the gods of Olympus; bound forever to serve and vanquish all foes until the gods themselves grant her peace.
But even gods are not immune to the fickle twists of fate, and Amarantha is soon ripped from her quiet resting place and cast through time itself to do battle with a modern day reincarnation of an old foe - a madman bent on rewriting history to suit his own twisted desire.
She must act quickly to win this battle, for the fate of all Olympian gods hangs in a delicate balance between immortality and the realization that even the gods themselves may be returned to the dust from which they arose.
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Winner Take All:
When Dylan Coulter rides into Sparkling Springs, he quickly discovers the woman who runs the local saloon is worth the risk of facing the hangman. Things get ugly fast when Dylan is accused of killing the only son of the richest rancher in the area. Unwilling to leave her behind, Dylan takes Maggie with him as he tries to dodge bounty hunters and a determined Pinkerton agent who just happens to be Maggie's old love...
It was well into the night before Maggie was able to herd the last of the night’s customers out of the Spur and lock the doors behind them. When she dropped the key in her pocket and turned around, she was startled beyond reason to find herself face to face with Dylan Coulter.
“Mr. Coulter, I thought you’d gone upstairs,” she said, feeling instantly foolish when he grinned at her discomfiture.
“Where am I supposed to go upstairs, ma’am?”
Her annoyance with herself went up another notch. “I’m sorry. I’d forgotten that you’ve just arrived. I’m on my way to my rooms, so I’ll show you the way.”
“You stay here?” He sounded surprised and she gave him a sidelong glance.
“Of course. It’s comfortable, and convenient.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded, still smiling broadly.
He took the oil lamp from her hand and gestured for her to lead the way. A slight scowl marring her face, Maggie set her jaw and headed for the stairs, the soft pool of golden light steady at her back as heavier steps trailed hers up the plain flight, and along the shadowy corridor.
“Your room is number three, Mr. Coulter,” she told him, pointing, “at the end of the hall, on the left. I had your things sent up earlier. Your horse is stabled across the street.”
“When did you have time to do all that?” he challenged, pleased, but also curious.
She laughed. “While you were busy taking money from foolish drunks.”
“You’re quite welcome, Mr. Coulter.”
“It’s Dylan, ma’am.” He handed her the lamp and touched the brim of his hat before walking away, humming softly to himself.
Before she could think about it, Maggie stopped him by calling out quietly, “Dylan, have you had any supper?”
He turned, watched her for several indeterminate heartbeats, and then shook his head.
“Would you like to join me?” Some inner voice was already laughing at her, and Maggie ignored it. She never socialized with customers. This was not only uncharacteristic; to her mind it was absurd. Yet… “Jonas Wilkins runs the café a few doors down, and he often stays late for me,” she said by way of explanation.
The amusement in Dylan Coulter’s blue eyes was already making her regret the impulsive invitation, but she bit back the tart words that would retract her cordiality, and waited for him to walk back to stand in front of her.
“I’d be delighted to have supper with you, Miss Watson,” he assured her and offered his arm.
“Maggie,” she said. “If you wouldn’t mind waiting for just a few minutes, I’d like to tidy up before we go.” She knew full well that she looked more than a bit harried after a long shift in the bar.
“I’ll meet you downstairs in twenty minutes, ma’am,” Dylan said with a smile.
* * *
Fifteen minutes after they’d separated upstairs, Maggie was waiting in the main room of the saloon. She heard a heavy footfall on the stairs and swung around to look at him.
For the second time that night, Dylan Coulter took her breath away. He’d changed from his riding clothes into a suit of rich, dark blue. His shirt was pale blue, ruffled at the cuffs and down the front. His silk tie was black, and the jacket he was pulling on drew her attention to broad shoulders and the undeniable impression of strength and power. He hadn’t bothered with a hat, and his dark brown hair was neatly combed, the deep waves gleaming when he passed under a lamp.
As he continued his walk toward her, her eyes drifted over him. Narrow hips flowed into long legs that were muscled from many hours spent on horseback. His boots were polished black leather, and the silver spurs were more ornate than functional. A gold chain dipped gracefully from the pocket of his burgundy vest, and the watch fob was a small, exquisitely carved replica of an old-fashioned flintlock pistol. At his hip, once again, rested a polished black gun, holster and shell belt lacking ornamentation.
A tiny sliver of ice formed at the base of her spine and began a swift ascent, chilling the back of her neck in heartbeats. He knows how to use that gun, too, a tiny voice murmured inside her head. The knowledge scared her a lot more than she wanted it to, though she wasn’t sure why it should.
She actually started at the sound of his quiet, richly timbred voice. His accent, like so much else about him, was something of a mystery; it revealed lingering traces of the south, but also the precision of an education obtained abroad. There was a subtle, growling purr in the texture of his speech A sound that made her feel awkward and vaguely disoriented. She’d felt a shadow of that kind of feeling only once before, and the reminder of it unsettled her further.
“Mr. Coulter.” She tried to smile, and knew it was only a partial success when his eyebrow rose, curiosity lighting the deep azure gaze that studied her. “Dylan,” she corrected softly. “Shall we go?” It was safer than standing around looking at him. She was distinctly certain that too long in his presence would not bode well for her peace of mind.
“Ma’am.” He nodded and offered his arm. “How far is this café?”
“A few doors down,” she said, and waited while he locked the saloon and pocketed the key. She opened her mouth to question the action, then chose not to bother.
“How much money did Billy Madison lose to you?” She asked the question carefully, a deep reticence about the answer stirring something akin to dread in her heart.
“A fair bit,” Dylan replied, his tone casual. “He assures me his daddy will be happy to pay the debt.” He looked down at her, a tiny smile lifting the corners of his mouth. “Is that true, Maggie. Or is the boy really as stupid as he seems?”
She sighed and shook her head. “Unfortunately, both.”
Dylan nodded. “Is this the place we’re looking for?” They’d stopped outside a small building with several windows in the front, and a sign above the door that read Wilkins Café.
She glanced at the door, with its shutter down but a light clearly burning inside. She smiled. “Yes, this is it.”
* * *
“She’s pretty friendly with that stranger, Billy,” Gil Horner noted as they watched from the concealment of an alley across the street from the café. He wasn’t much interested in Billy Madison’s attempts to win Maggie Watson’s heart, but Billy’s father paid him well to keep the kid alive. He had the feeling this would be one night when he had to earn his pay by more forceful means than the threat of his presence. If the kid went after Coulter, Gil knew they didn’t really stand much of a chance. Coulter had an air about him that Horner had encountered before; he was dangerous, cool, and confident. All the things Billy Madison wasn’t, of course. “Why don’t you just leave it, kid?” he advised, knowing as he spoke that the boy wouldn’t be deterred.
“Maggie and me have an understandin’, Gil,” Billy objected. “I don’t aim to leave her alone to face the likes of Dylan Coulter.”
Grinding his teeth in frustration, Horner grabbed the young man by the shoulder and spun him around so he could look Billy in the eye.
“What you and Maggie Watson have is a misunderstandin’, kid,” he snarled. “She’s out of your league, Billy. Leave her alone before it gets you killed!”
He waited, and in a detached corner of his mind, he gave the kid a once over. Billy was a good-looking boy, with light brown eyes and hair as black as his Indian mother’s had been. He carried the best features of both his parents, and there wasn’t a girl within a fifty-mile radius who wouldn’t be eager to marry him. Nature being perversely absurd, the only woman he’d ever expressed an interest in was the one who didn’t want him. Maggie was twenty-five to Billy’s nineteen, and Gil had wondered a few times if that wasn’t her primary objection to the kid. Horner had made a play for her once, and like others, she'd shot him down with kind, but firm words.
“You still hankerin’ for her yourself, Gil?” Billy asked with a sneer. “That why you want me to give up?”
“I’m not a man who likes to be turned down more than once, kid,” Gil snapped. “She said no, and I’m willin’ to leave it at that. Unlike you,” he added pointedly.
“Go home, Gil,” Billy ordered. “If I need backup, I can find Boyd.”
“Billy,” Horner began with forced patience. “The Sheriff’s out of town. Boyd ain’t in a position to be doin’ you favors. He’s the deputy, let him do his job.”
Billy started to object, just as Horner knew he would. Gil’s closed fist rose straight up, clipping the boy soundly beneath the chin, snapping his teeth together and knocking him out cold in a matter of seconds. Sighing heavily, Gil caught the kid’s weight, hefted him onto one broad shoulder, and headed down the alley to the waiting horses. Billy would be madder than a caged bobcat come morning, but that was better than dead. At least in Horner’s book.
From Out of the Past
(Revised and Re-edited – formerly released as Out of the Past)
A series of killings has the Toronto Police Department in turmoil. The press has labelled the killer a “werewolf” and hysteria is on the rise in the heat of the summer… Detective Damien Knightley is the lead investigator, but he’s got secrets of his own that need guarding in this very public investigation. Knightley is a vampire, and as the case gets more complex, what he discovers has him both baffled and worried.
In the Northern Ontario town of Brighton, a visionary woman finds a stranger outside her door, and because he’s near death she brings him into her home. In the wake of her kindness, dreams and visions expose things that terrify her. The stranger is a wolf, and history is about to repeat itself and explode in violent death if they can’t reach Toronto and capture a renegade on a blood-hunt.
As Damien recalls a love from a century ago, the threads of time are being pulled together, joining the past and the present. The beautiful woman he is falling in love with is bringing back memories he’d rather forget, and when the killer is finally revealed, there are more questions than answers in the identity…
Rain spewed from the heavens in heavy torrents carried on water-laden gusts of cold wind. It was a horrendous night, and no one in their right mind would be on the streets in this kind of storm. Despite that, this little corner of the city was presently filled with activity. Nothing like a police crime scene to pull people out into the elements.
The dark alley and the area immediately surrounding it teemed with people: Forensics, uniformed officers, detectives, and now the captain of the Metro Squad. The entire area was cordoned off with the distinctive yellow of police tape, a much too familiar sight in the large city. The night was lit with eerie strobes from the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles. The coroner’s wagon was inching closer to the mouth of the alley, and the uniformed men were keeping the growing crowd at a safe distance. Despite their curiosity, none of them really wanted to see the body—at least that was the consensus of the police department.
Detective Damien Knightley slipped past the medical team and stood in the shadows. His senses reached, drew in the smells and resonances of the violence that had taken place here so recently. The storm offered little hindrance to his enhanced vampiric senses, and he shivered against a rush of cold that had nothing to do with the rain or the chill in the wind. Beneath the heavy aroma of blood was a subtler scent, one that he knew he’d encountered before, though not for many years. It was wild, animalistic, and it touched his heart with an icy thrill of fear.
Beyond the savage taint of rage and bloodlust were even more discordant signals. He felt the scream of the victim, silenced almost instantly, and the surge of power that intoxicated the murderer more than the killing itself did. It was akin to the supreme pleasure of consuming the blood of a willing victim, and he resented that remembrance–and the longing it woke inside him.
He turned at the concerned query and offered Doctor Janine Chase a shaky smile. She was as lovely as always, thick brown hair tied into a disarrayed ponytail, wide eyes dark and sensitive in spite of the circumstances. If she’d worn make-up to work, it was long since washed away by the squalls of water that gushed from the sky and soaked mortal flesh to the bone. He remained cheerfully immune and was grateful for it. As he looked down at her, he felt a rush of affection and forced his mood to lighten.
“What’s wrong?” Her voice was pitched low, but the worry in her huge eyes was unmistakable. She glanced at the body on the ground, winced involuntarily, and met his sharp gaze. The blood was running like a river now that the impediment of the body was being removed. “You’ve seen something like this before, haven’t you, Damien?”
Her eyes never left his face, and against her will she was caught again by the intense awareness he incited within her. Damien Knightley wasn’t like anyone she’d ever known, and despite years of casual camaraderie, she couldn’t stop her body’s response to his physical presence. He was tall, golden haired, classically handsome, and possessed the intelligence of centuries. He was the loneliest man she’d ever known, and the most giving in many ways. She loved him. She had been in love with him almost from the start. That ache never left her.
Knightley nodded, his gaze drawn to the body despite his desire not to look at the bloodied, ravaged corpse. It was quickly covered and wheeled out of the alley moments later. Damien felt vaguely sick, and hunger gnawed his belly. The rich, metallic scent of blood was smothering. He drew in a deep, shaky breath.
“The Whitechapel murders weren’t all the work of the Ripper,” he told her quietly.
“You think the killer is a vampire?” She rarely questioned his judgment, but something about this didn’t feel like the work of a vampire—for a start, there was too much blood left behind. When she watched his eyes grow guarded, she feared the answer might be something worse than a vampire.
“No, but he’s not human, either,” Damien replied uneasily, his expression distant. He shielded any feelings he wasn’t ready to look at too closely.
It took a few seconds to recover, but Janine bypassed the shock with the practiced ease of being too familiar with his amazing revelations. In the moments that followed her stunned silence, she remembered, vividly, the monster Damien had destroyed the previous year. ‘The Ripper’ was a mistake DeVallier had made over a hundred years earlier. Damien had felt compelled to step in because he had failed his vampire father when DeVallier had asked for his help in destroying the creature back in 1888. It had taken several deaths, including the loss of a promising young detective, to end that particular horror. Recalling the condition the bodies were in was enough to make her queasy all over again. She was startled out of her morbid thoughts by the appearance of Damien’s partner.
“How can no one have seen or heard something like this?” Bonnie Taylor’s voice shook, and her normally fair features were bleached with shock. Janine placed a gently comforting hand on her arm, and Bonnie smiled wanly at the supportive gesture. “I’m okay, really.”
“Well, you sure as hell don’t look okay,” Captain Joe Winslow observed as he came to a halt behind her. Raindrops glistened on his dark face, and months of overtime and frustrated worry had put deep lines around the normally calm eyes of the police captain. His mouth was a grim line as he looked at the detective in charge of the biggest task force currently operational in Metropolitan Toronto.
“What have you got, Damien?”
Janine took her cue and went to join the rest of her team as they combed the alley for whatever evidence might have been left behind.
Knightley met Winslow’s demand without flinching. “Same as the others, Captain. We’ve got people canvassing the area, but the odds are no one heard a thing, especially on a night like this.”
“Have you I.D.’d the victim?” Try as he might, Winslow couldn’t keep his tone even. He was asking Knightley for a miracle solution, wishing with all his heart the young detective could supply him with the answer he wanted.
“Carla Winters,” one of the officers said, and handed the captain a small plastic bag with a worn wallet inside it. “At least that’s what the Health Card says.”
Winslow took the bag without comment, and fell into step beside Damien when Knightley headed out of the recesses of the alley.
“Have we been able to find a motive?”
“Speculation,” Damien answered quietly. He was silent for a moment as they passed close to a few of the curious onlookers. “We’ve run checks on all the victims, their backgrounds, and talked to anyone who might have known them. There’s no connection, at least none we can find.”
“This was picked up a few feet from the body,” Janine interjected as she rejoined them. Bonnie was with her, and the blonde woman didn’t look as pleased as she should have been with the recovered bit of hope.
“Colbert House,” Damien read through the plastic covering the card.
Winslow drew in a deep breath, exhaled loudly and rubbed his eyes with a hand that shook visibly.
“Alethia Colbert is the head of a shelter project a few miles from here,” Bonnie supplied reluctantly.
Janine and Damien exchanged a curious look.
“Think there might be a connection?” Damien posed the question to his partner, half his attention still on Joe Winslow.
“Not likely, Knightley,” the captain stated firmly. “Alethia Colbert is building hope for street people, not encouraging murder.”
Damien was startled by the observation, and the vehemence with which the words were spoken.
“Who wants her project stopped?”
“Just about everyone,” Bonnie said.
Janine waved at them and headed for her car. Her work was enroute to the morgue. Damien would satisfy her curiosity about Taylor and Winslow later.
Captain Winslow was called back to the alley.
With a last look toward the murder site, Damien took Bonnie by the arm, and they headed for the ancient Caddy parked just outside the police lines. As he’d anticipated, the press descended on them as soon as they passed within range.
“Detective Knightley, is this another werewolf killing?”
Damien stopped abruptly and turned to look at the man who had tossed the query at him. The detective’s vivid blue eyes locked with the deeper shades of hazel in Christopher Haines’ eager gaze. For an instant, he was tempted to wipe the thought from the young man’s mind, and then he dismissed the idea.
“It’s another killing, Haines,” he answered quietly. “At the moment, that’s all there is to tell.”
“We’ve heard that parts of the bodies can’t be accounted for, Detective. Is that true?”
Taylor winced and Damien motioned for her to get in the car, and he quickly slid behind the wheel. He ignored the last sputter of questions and comments, put the Caddy in gear and left the crowd of reporters far behind them in seconds.
“Tell me about Alethia Colbert’s project?” Damien requested. “Where is it?”
Bonnie didn’t answer immediately and Damien looked sharply at her.
“Her office is on Eglinton, near Avenue Road,” she finally told him. “The shelter isn’t operational yet.”
“She’s a friend of yours,” Damien surmised as he turned in the right direction.
“Since I was a girl,” Bonnie confessed softly. She turned to look out the window, the watery haze of sheeting rain obscuring everything to blurred dots of light that flickered past without much notice. “She’s one of the best people I know, Damien. This can’t have anything to do with her.”
“It can’t,” he suggested gently, compassion and understanding in his tone. “Or you don’t want it to?”
She resisted the instant retort that sprang to her lips and held her tongue until she could speak without snapping at a perfectly logical query.
“I don’t want it to,” she admitted carefully. “She’s put her life into this project, Damien. In more ways than one.”
Damien wanted to ask questions, but something in the troubled eyes, perhaps the sadness and uncertainty, stilled the words. She pointed as they approached the building, and within minutes they were enroute to the tenth floor office.