It’s here, it’s here! It’s officially here!
In the paranormal romance sphere, covers with beautiful characters abound. Just women, just men, couples, thruples, etcetera. But it’s the object-based covers that draw me in to a story, so that’s what my cover designer and I chose.
It’s currently available for preorder on Amazon and will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
The thread: Throughout the series, mortals and immortals are tied to their soulmate with a golden thread (you’ll learn a lot more about that in the prequel!). Each cover in the series will include these threads.
The scythes: Pretty clearly, these represent the main character, Ellis Grimm, one of thousands of Grim Reapers doing their work unseen by mortal eyes.
The shield – Greek key design around the edge: There’s a large influence from Greek mythology in the series — it’s not just Reapers, but includes characters like Furies and Fates. The Greek myth of Zeus splitting the original humans (who had 2 heads, 4 arms, and 4 legs) into halves is significant.
The shield – feathers: The Reapers work for Azrael, Archangel of Death. In this book, Raguel, Archangel of Justice plays an important role, one that becomes more prominent in future books.
Is it all paranormal/supernatural?
No. In this series, one of the two main characters has no idea supernatural characters walk among us (until something happens!). The relationships build in very contemporary ways (other than the soulmates part of the equation!).
When’s it coming out?
Can I read the first chapter?
Sure! But I warn you… the version below is pre-copyeditor, so you’ll have to forgive me any typos!
Chapter 1 – Danielle
An unnaturally frigid breeze swirled around me, far colder than normal for Central Park in mid-June. I pulled my thin cardigan tighter and focused on my book. Weeks ago, the pergola above me was covered in brilliant purple wisteria blossoms, but the flowers had died. As all things did. Now all the vine-laden structure did was shade me from the sun.
“Are you playing or just borrowing the table?” The man’s voice was deep, soothing, tugging at something in the back of my brain. But its owner had ignored my book—my obvious message to the outside world saying, Leave me alone. Find an empty seat.
Keeping my eyes on the text, I said, “I’m waiting for my partner.”
“Mind if I sit until they arrive?”
I tucked a finger in the book and closed it, looking up with a practiced glare. Late twenties or early thirties, like me, but with dark eyes more suited to one of the older men who frequented the Chess House. As though he’d already faced a lifetime of love and loss. He leaned on the park bench opposite me and smiled, radiating a kindness that pulled at my heart even more than his voice.
His faded jeans were slim, showing off muscular legs, and his light gray T-shirt stretched across his broad chest. Dark ivy league-cut hair, artfully messed, paired with an immaculate five o’clock shadow. No way he was here for chess.
I’d set up my board the same way I did every Saturday. Three and a half turns into the last game Dad and I had played. Right down to the way he’d left his c6-knight facing b6. The stranger stretched for the board, his graceful fingers barely touching the black knight, swiveling it to face white.
“Stop!” My hand shot out, sending the book tumbling to the ground.
His brow creased, and he returned the piece to its original orientation, his hand retreating faster than I’d reacted. “You’re very particular about your board.”
I slumped against the wooden slats of the bench, breath rough, stroking the scar on the inside of my right palm. That was my father’s knight. Take it easy, Dani. No need to freak out. But the intruder said nothing more about my ridiculous outburst. Instead, he knelt and picked up my book.
“The Count of Monte Cristo?” He smiled, and my lungs calmed, as though he fed serenity directly into them. Thumbing through the book, he stopped two-thirds through and read. “‘There are two ways of seeing: with the body and with the soul. The body’s sight can sometimes forget, but the soul remembers forever.’ That’s one of my favorite lines.”
He placed the book on the side of the table, his long fingers lingering on it. I stared at his elegant hands—odd on such an athletic body—as my breathing slowed. If only the soul could forget. If only the soul could let go of the moment two years ago that the body couldn’t remember. The moment that lived only in my nightmares.
“I set the pieces up…” I tore my gaze away from the book, back to his smile, and the comfort it gave. “Then I read a little. When the mood strikes, I analyze the board.”
He slid onto the bench. A move others had received a verbal beating for. Why wasn’t I chasing him away? He folded his arms and rested them on the stone table, a subtle scent of cinnamon wafting off him. “You were here by yourself the last two Saturdays, as well.”
The hair at the nape of my neck rose and my pulse quickened. Was that a warning or excitement? There was something familiar about him, like we’d met before. But where? When? “That’s creepy.”
A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Just came off my shift at the hospital. Same shift the last two weeks. I peruse the open games on my way through the park and consider joining, but I’m usually too tired. Can’t help but notice the rather intense brunette intentionally not playing, hogging a table.”
“Lots of people come here and wait for an opponent.”
“True.” He raised an eyebrow, drawing my gaze to his dark eyes. Strangest thing. They were shot with flecks of gray, like stars glittering in an inky sky. “But you don’t set up a game-in-progress and wait for a stranger to join you. Maybe an e4, but not Evans Gambit.”
My heart gave a traitorous flutter. Not only did he know chess, but he knew the opening. “What do you do at the hospital?”
“Trauma unit.” He leaned his chin on his hand. “Name’s Ellis, by the way.”
“Danielle.” I didn’t offer a hand to shake, but neither did he. Worked at the hospital, seemed nice enough, outrageously handsome. And all sorts of not-what-I-needed. “Alright, Ellis. Either you’re an aggressive player and you’d take the offered pawn, or you’re defensive and you’d move your bishop out of harm’s way. You interrupting my book tells me it’s probably the former.”
“That’s confidence.” He winked at me. “Not aggression.”
Arrogance could have been a better word. “Some might say the two go hand-in-hand.”
“Some might.” He studied the board. “However, there’s no denying this opening is one of the most aggressive white has. So, while my personality’s up for debate, yours isn’t.”
My intentional frown broke for a fraction of a second until I forced it back into place. His charm didn’t belong at my table.
“My guess is you want your opponent to take the pawn as a distraction while you claim the middle of the board and lay waste to them.”
“Or I’m ready for anything, whether they accept or decline the gambit.”
“Not surprised.” Leaving his head on his hand, he extended his free arm, fingers hovering over the black bishop. The corner of his lips twitched. “May I touch your pieces now?”
I swallowed hard, an almost-forgotten heat flushing through my cheeks. Who was this guy? Why did he choose my table? And was that a pickup line?
He smirked but didn’t touch without permission. “I bet you’re a formidable opponent.”
A challenge. I hadn’t had a real one in two years. My frown faltered again, and I inclined my head toward the board. “The turn is yours.”
His face lit up, and he moved his bishop to d4, declining my pawn, claiming the center. “Let’s see what you do with that.”
“Empty threat.” I moved my pawn to c3, prepared to take his bishop without giving up my knight.
“My threats are never empty.” He moved the bishop back to where he should have on his first turn, and we fell into a rhythm. Attack, counterattack, and defense. He was a smart player, making few mistakes, taking minor risks. But he was too cautious, and I dominated the game.
The longer we played, the more pronounced his peculiar accent became. There was a hint of British or Irish, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“Funny story.” I smiled, unable to maintain the frown any longer. “The man who taught me had a thick accent, and I grew up thinking it was called Heaven’s Gambit.”
He chuckled as I took his queen, and he repaid the favor by claiming the rook I’d sacrificed. “Do you believe in Heaven?”
My stomach lurched, and I knocked over one of his pawns by my queen.
He didn’t flinch, but righted the pawn before I could. “Too personal?”
Yes! Especially from the gorgeous trauma guy who was good at chess and possibly flirting with me. The answer was a gaping wound in my chest, and all I could do was close my fingers over the scar on my palm while my throat went dry. But when I looked up, our eyes locked, and the calm came over me again. As though all was right with the world.
How did he do that?
I shook my head. “I don’t know. Do you? With your job, you must confront that question every day?”
A cool breeze blew past us, and I shivered. I should have sat in the sunshine.
“I’m not sure what comes next, but I believe our words create our reality. And if that’s true, it means each soul has the opportunity to determine whether their afterlife is a good one or not.” He kept his eyes on mine, brows drawing together as he leaned forward slightly. “Every day you wake up—still on this side of mortality—is another day you can earn paradise. I’ve seen hundreds of people this week alone who’d give anything to be in your position right now.”
But they didn’t know the life I lived. The emptiness. The loneliness. How my soul cried out every day, demanding I find the people responsible. Stop thinking about it.
I made my final move. “Checkmate. We’re done.”
He stared at the board and nodded, not speaking for a moment.
Not leaving, either.
My throat was thick, but I swallowed it down. I’d built the barrier around me so high, so strong, but it was like he pulled one brick out and the whole thing tumbled down on top of me. “That means you can leave.”
His eyes remained downcast as he spoke quietly. “What drew me to your table is the sadness which emanates from you.”
A cloud passed over the sun, and the light dimmed, but I couldn’t rip my gaze off him—off the way the shadow seemed darker around him than anything else. My fingers remained on the scar, the smooth skin a reminder of better times. Worse times. God, just different times.
He leaned forward, looking up at me. “I see it day-in and day-out and thought it might help to remind you of the good things you have in life. Because I can tell you’ve forgotten.”
My breath caught, pain stabbing at the backs of my eyes. Good things? What did he know about good things in my life? I couldn’t manage anything louder than a whisper. “You don’t know me. You don’t know what I do and don’t have.”
“I know more than you think I do.” He picked up his king and folded it in his fist, clenching tight. “And I’m here with a warning, Danielle Cristina Edmonds.”
I launched from the bench, eyes wide, heart thundering. “How do you—”
A darkness came over his features as he stood, sending goosebumps up my arms and legs. “Give up your hunt, or you’ll never escape the hell you’ve built for yourself.”
“Give that piece back.” I held out my hand, unable to stop it from shaking. Was he in on it? Did that mean I was getting close? “And if you ever come near me again, I’m calling the cops.”
He dropped the king into my palm. It was so cold I yelped, yanking my hand away. Covered in a thick layer of frost, the piece tumbled to the ground, shattering on the stones at my feet.
No! No! No! Dad’s king.
And so was Ellis.