The Reaper’s Gambit: Cover Reveal & First Chapter

The Reaper’s Gambit: Cover Reveal & First Chapter

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?

April 2023!!

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.

Caine series re-cover + Phoenix Heist cover reveal

Caine series re-cover + Phoenix Heist cover reveal

There are big things going on at Casa Oppedisano these days! With both Disarming Caine and The Phoenix Heist going live next month, I’ve been super-busy! I’m also working on the 4th (as yet untitled) book in the Caine & Ferraro series and have outlined the 5th book.

All this brings me to… covers!

When I released Burning Caine, I had 5 covers designed, which I was mostly happy with, at least in concept. But once they were out in the wild, something wasn’t sitting right with me.

Burning Caine covers

The original Caine & Ferraro series covers were created in July 2021. They were all concepts, which would be refined closer to when they’d be posted up for pre-order. The Burning Caine cover went through six revisions in that timeframe… and I’ve got the proof copies to prove it! They were mostly minor tweaks, but a few were big leaps.

Version 1: It all started with something I slapped together super-fast for a “Vivian award finalists” Instagram giveaway. That was the first time I’d touched Photoshop in at least 15 years (or more)!

Version 2: After winning the award for “Most Anticipated Romance” and making the decision to self-publish, I figured it was time to create something real. Thus the “couple on top and location on bottom” cover was born! It was modelled after a few series that were favourites of mine at the time. That’s what went up for pre-order. It was so exciting!!

But I was never quite happy with it. There was too much empty space between the couple. The city (Lansing, Michigan — the story takes place in a bedroom community) was too busy, and I didn’t like the font. Plus, at a really small size, the man’s arm that extends into her hair just looked like a black mass, so it was nothing more than two floating heads.

Version 3: So, I modified the couple (merged two photos together), bought a more distinct font, and re-positioned the title. This was the version that was available at go-live!

But I was still not quite happy. While the treatment on the font was neat (it’s canvas), it felt off. Unclear. I didn’t like the city behind the title. And the couple was too orange. As I progressed into the future books, all of which would have the same layout with colour variations, I didn’t like how they were coming out.

Plus, “couple + city” wasn’t as common as “a guy” on the cover for romantic suspense. Similarly, “all block text” is giving way to “simple font plus script font” in cover trends.

Which brings me to…

Version 4: Just a guy, with a simple font and script on the title.

Caine & Ferraro series

More importantly, Disarming Caine is coming out next month. That means I was putting the finishing touches on the cover based on the “Version 3” concept (which was only ever a black cover on Amazon).

And I was… can you spot the trend? Not happy with it.

I was nervous about re-covering the series when people had already bought the existing books, but the way I looked at it, better to do that before I’ve got 3 books, let alone 4 or 5, right?

On the upside, I sell a lot more digital copies, and those will just update. Plus anyone with a paperback now has a collector’s edition!!

And why not go all in and making a title change? The other change that crept in as I was working on the books was that I decided to alphabetize the titles.

  • Burning Caine
  • Chasing Caine
  • Disarming Caine
  • And at least 2 more titles coming

I’d written a prequel short story called Meeting Caine in 2021, which provided some backstory on Sam and Antonio’s real first meeting. The word ‘Meeting’ made sense at the time, but then I was starting with an M and moving into alphabetics!

So, Meeting Caine changed to Admiring Caine, also with the brand new cover.

And here they all are!!

As of writing this, the changes are still making their way through Amazon, but if you have a digital copy of the book, you’ll either already see the update or will soon.

The Phoenix Heist

The Phoenix Heist is a novella prequel to a new series I’ll have coming out next year, called Reynolds Recoveries. The series centers around a company that recovers lost things, but the books focus on their ‘big ticket’ jobs which are heists to steal back stolen belongings.

This first book will be free to all my newsletter subscribers, but it will also be available in paperback (a very skinny paperback at about 115 pages!!) on Amazon.

The official description will be coming soon, but the quick and dirty description is: A second-chance romance between Zac Fraser, the Reynolds’ getaway driver and Ashley Bradford, an FBI Special Agent. She’s on a case to track down the buyers at an upcoming black market auction and his team’s in town to steal one of the items before the auction can take place.

Every book in the series will have a different member of the Reynolds team finding love, with action, adventure, suspense, and a guaranteed HEA in every book.

In the end…

You may also note the similarity between the Reynolds cover and the new Caine covers. They’re not identical, but they look more like they belong together on my author page.

This is super intentional!! And was another important goal with the Caine series re-covers.

And for now, I’m happy.

All the books, all the covers, and so many exciting things to come!!

Thanks for reading,

Amazon, author accounts, and tears

So, I did it. I hit publish on a pre-order of Burning Caine. It’s no big deal, I mean it’s early September and the book still needs to go through copyedits. The pre-order is until January. I just needed to get it up there so I could sign up with promo sites that don’t believe you’re actually an author until you have something for sale somewhere.

No. Big. Deal.

I thought I was prepared for it.

Spoiler Alert. . . I wasn’t.

Seeing my book on Amazon. Seeing my NAME on Amazon. Having an AUTHOR ACCOUNT!! Holy freaking shirtballs!

I still have work to do! I need to upload photos. I need to write a bio. I need to sign up with those promo sites. New Facebook header. Twitter announcement. Tell my family!

My head is swimming. There’s so much to do!

But I just keep coming back to that page on Amazon.

For all the imposter syndrome, the agent rejections, the “I love your book, but don’t know how to position it in the crowded romantic suspense genre”. . . it doesn’t matter. Because I did it. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing a book. And now it’s going to be published. People can read it.

They’re happy tears. I swear.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. . . I did win that Vivian award. It’s even on Wikipedia!!!

Instagram giveaway!

Several of the Vivian finalists have gotten together to do an Instagram giveaway. Like, comment, follow each author in the hop and be entered for a $300 gift card to the Amazon US store!!

And don’t forget to check out the other finalists’ books. This is a great opportunity to find new authors and new reads!

Giveaway closes in approximately a week.

Vivian Finalist?

So, yeah. I’m a finalist for the inaugural RWA Vivian awards . . .

I got a phone call . . .

It’s on the RWA’s website . . .

I even tweeted about it, so why doesn’t it feel real?

But there’s no other word for it. I’m stunned.

My category is “Most Anticipated Romance” and is for unpublished manuscripts. I’m writing-buddies with some of the other nominees and am ecstatic to be in the same group as them.

In my prior blog post, I chatted on and on about the journey from Burning Caine‘s first revisions, all the other things I’ve been writing, and how the querying process didn’t swing my way. In fact, I’d been planning to make huge revisions based on the little critique I’d received from agents. I’d even started making them!

So now, I’m sitting on a book that readers and judges are telling me they liked. What now?

Do I have to put some of the imposter syndrome away and listen to this nomination? Believe it?

Is this a sign from the universe that I should self-publish?

I mean, when I started writing, I heard lots of anecdotes from friends and family who knew people who’d self-published a book. I poo-pooed the idea, figuring traditional publishing was the only way to go. But the more authors I connect with, the more I learn about self-publishing, the more I realize that it’s a perfectly viable option.

I’ve been considering it for some time. There’s an appeal to the idea of being able to write what you want when you want. Put it out in the world so much faster than traditional. Get higher royalties.

Be. In. Control.

But wow, there’s so much to learn! So much to do!